Graduate student honored for his electronic thesis work about ASL

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Max Schulte

Jeffrey Cougler shows children at Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival how to use his software.

Jeffrey Cougler, an RIT graduate student in computer graphics design, has won an award from The Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations for his exemplary electronic thesis.

Cougler’s thesis, ASL Finger Challenge, is computer-assisted instructional software that teaches the ASL finger alphabet and then helps students improve their fingerspelling reception using real-time animation and videos.

The awards program includes several categories of appreciation. Cougler won in the Innovative Electronic Theses and Dissertations award category, which recognizes students’ efforts to transform the genre of the print dissertation through the use of innovative software.

“I’m thrilled to have won this award,” says Cougler. “No one has developed a software like this. There is a need for this kind of instruction for students learning ASL who find the skill of fingerspelling reception to be very challenging. It benefits those who are learning ASL and provides students, parents and teachers with a way to practice without the need for a partner.”

On May 2, Cougler exhibited his software to thousands of visitors at Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival.

Cougler won a Fulbright Scholarship in 2006 for a deaf studies program in Italy to conduct research on his thesis. Cougler is now creating an additional fingerspelling reception module using the Language of Italian signs. He is currently in Italy continuing his research.