Carnegie Mellon University

Bernardine Dias, Founder and Managing Member, Diyunu Consulting

Bringing Technology to Underserved Communities

Bernardine Dias (SCS 2000, 2004) has made it her life’s work to use expertise in robotics and artificial intelligence to develop technology that’s a perfect fit for each user.

“I work primarily with people with disabilities, people in the developing world and communities that historically really weren't benefiting from technology,” Bernardine says. “My goals are twofold. I want to diversify the community that technology serves and diversify the innovators because people often bring to the innovation table the experiences they have lived.”

One example of her work in action is a Braille writing tutor project that started in conjunction with a small school for blind children in India. In developing nations, teaching Braille literacy requires a different approach and cultural competence than utilized in other parts of the world.

To conquer these challenges, Bernardine developed an automated tutor with audio feedback that helped students practice writing Braille by punching raised dots onto paper using the slate and stylus method.

“The most striking thing for me was that the school started out being afraid of technology,” Bernardine says. “Now, teachers who are blind themselves are interested in making changes and becoming innovators, too.”

Bernardine’s body of professional contribution includes work for all kinds of audiences in field robotics including autonomous team coordination, navigation and planning. But underserved communities are her passion.

“It’s allowed me to see for myself how powerful technological transformation can be for communities that are often forgotten.”

Story by Elizabeth Speed