Programming a Storybook for Bonobo Learning and Research

by Ellen Hartstack and Alex Pelelo
Computer Science
Faculty advisor: Dr. Kenneth Schweller

The Great Ape Trust is a scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa, dedicated to the study of the great apes. This facility houses six orangutans and six bonobos, a close relative to chimpanzees. Researchers there have been involved in the innovative study of bonobos and their use of language. They are exploring their capabilities through the use of symbols known as lexigrams. Each lexigram corresponds to a word allowing the bonobos to construct sentences. In order to further their learning, we have constructed a program that uses these lexigrams in a storybook. Similar to children’s storybooks, this program pairs a sentence of lexigrams with a picture that conveys the same meaning. It is our hope that this program will assist future bonobos in their learning of the lexigrams.