Monthly Archives: August 2016

RIT/NTID welcomes deaf and hearing Israeli performers Sept. 28

A black background with eight performers in black full leotards holding up their hands and looking at the camera.

A combination of Israeli Sign Language, expressive gestures and physical theatre will intrigue audiences during a free performance of the Ebisu Sign Language Theatre Laboratory, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Panara Theatre on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus. The performance—which coincides with the celebration of Rochester Deaf Awareness Week—is sponsored by RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester and the Jewish Community Center of Rochester.

The performance—free and open to the public—is suitable for both deaf and hearing audiences ages 13 and older. According to show producers, the nature of the movements and themes in the production make for clear understanding of what is happening on stage without the need for interpreters.  

Ebisu Sign Language Theatre Laboratory began in 2014 as part of the Grammar of the Body (GRAMBY) Research Project led by Wendy Sandler, linguistics professor at the University of Haifa, Israel. Most of the eight actors are deaf or hard of hearing, and all use Israeli Sign Language (ISL) daily. Atay Citron, director of Ebisu, is associate professor in the theater department at University of Haifa.

Named after the Japanese god Ebisu, who, according to the group, is the only deaf god in world religions and mythologies, the group highlights facial expressions and body language in their work and experiments with gestures that normally are performed and understood by hearing and deaf people alike. The theatrical material is not based on written texts; it is the product of improvisation, and the result is poetic, humorous and physical.

According to the group, Rochester’s large deaf and hard-of-hearing population prompted their visit to the city, which follows performances in the greater New York City region.

“We had learned of the Ebisu group through an RIT/NTID alumnus who had seen them in Israel and highly recommended them,” said Aaron Kelstone of RIT/NTID’s Cultural and Creative Studies Department. “It made sense to try and get them to campus so that our students and the Rochester community could experience another form of deaf and hearing artistic expression.”

In addition to the Rochester sponsors, Ebisu’s U.S. tour is supported by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Culture and Arts Council of Mifal Hapais (Israeli Lottery), and the University of Haifa. Their work is part of The Grammar of the Body Research Project that is supported by a grant from The European Research Council.

RIT to become first university to publish video game on Xbox One platform

Rochester Institute of Technology will become the first university to publish a video game on the Xbox One gaming platform when Hack, Slash & Backstab is officially launched on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The game, which will be available for purchase, will also debut simultaneously on the Steam platform and be available for sale through the digital storefront Humble.

Hack, Slash & Backstab was produced in residence at RIT in a studio course offered through RIT’s internationally ranked School of Interactive Games and Media, and the RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC).

The game won third place in the Best Visual Quality category of the 2016 Intel University Games Showcase in March as part of the 2016 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

RIT’s game design and development program was recently ranked third at the undergraduate level and seventh at the graduate level according to the new 2016 international rankings from “The Princeton Review.” More.

RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center presenting exhibits by deaf Nigerian and Chinese artists

artwork that features a woman with dark streaked hair in an updo, colorful face, clothing in shades of blue and green

Exhibits highlighting the diversity of deaf artists and their experiences will be on display Aug. 26-Oct. 29 in the Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. An artists’ reception for both is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, in the gallery located in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall on the RIT campus.

Yiqiao Wang’s artwork has a unique and distinctive style that has become her trademark through her use of vivid colors and stylized geometric abstracts. Her works, whether they represent humans, animals or objects, are interpretations on what she sees and perceives in her daily life.

“I work primarily with portraits,” said Wang. “My work process starts with a sketch in black and white. I draw inspiration from pop culture, everyday life, cultural influences of China and America, memories and natural environments. After the sketch, I experiment in finding a color scheme that reflects my vision. I then transfer my drawing into digital illustration and use geometric shapes and vivid colors to complete my interpretation of the image’s soul. My style symbolizes brightness, nature and pleasure and a new approach to use of colors. I want my work to have that emotional impact that draws you into looking at the image in depth. A professor from my MFA program once told me to find a style that neither deaf nor hearing artists had—a style was that uniquely mine. I feel that I have accomplished that with my work.”

Wang was born in Beijing and studied digital media and illustration in the United States. Her specialty is in watercolor illustrations and vector drawings.

Artist Hilary Allumaga’s abstract paintings are scenes of Nigerian life, in which he uses dark colors to represent struggles of the past, and bright colors to signify hope of the future. Use of round shapes and starbursts also symbolize the future.

“Some of my paintings reflect my emotional past and wishes for brighter days to come,” said Allumaga. “I see a future that is vibrant and full of promise. As a deaf artist, I see colors and texture as a way of communicating my feelings. They vibrate from the canvas.”

Born and raised in the small village of Alogani in the Nasarawa state in north central Nigeria, Allumaga was a mostly self-taught artist until coming to the United States to study studio art. He loves art in all forms and sharing his work with others. He lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife and four children.

RIT/NTID team wins National Association of the Deaf College Bowl for the sixth time

Gerry Buckley in orange RIT golf shirt cheering w/four team members and two coaches in black RIT shirts holding trophy.

A student team from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has won the National Association of the Deaf College Bowl academic competition for the third consecutive year, and earned its sixth victory overall.

Held at the biennial NAD conference since 1988, the College Bowl is a four-day question-and-answer academic competition with topics as varied as literature, science, mathematics, history and current events. The event, which brings together deaf contestants from top colleges and universities serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students, regularly draws more than 1,000 audience members to the finals.

Teams of four students from each school vie for the trophy and scholarships for their respective colleges. In addition to RIT/NTID, teams at this year’s competition held in Phoenix were from California State University-Northridge, Gallaudet University and the University of Minnesota.

The winning RIT/NTID team members are Lauren Berger, a psychology major from Rochester, N.Y.; Eric Epstein, a software engineering major from Tucson, Ariz.; Asher Kirschbaum, a mechanical engineering major from Washington Grove, Md.; and Emmanuel Perrodin-Njoku, a biomedical sciences major from Washington, D.C.

“The weekly practice throughout the year paid off big time,” said Epstein. “I am so proud of my teammates for their yearlong efforts in studying. I look forward to the next generation of Tigers who will undoubtedly defend the bowl.”

The team worked with co-coaches and RIT/NTID faculty members Christopher Kurz and Gary Behm to prepare for the competition.

“The entire RIT/NTID community is so proud of our College Bowl team for bringing the trophy back to campus for another two years,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Lauren, Eric, Asher and Emmanuel did an extraordinary job against fierce competition. They are carrying on a great tradition, and it was wonderful to have so many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni in the audience cheering on our students.”

Cool Co-op: Benjamin Polstra

BenPolstra with glasses and a white shirt and striped tie standly proudly, just got a job offer for after graduation with GEICO

Benjamin Polstra, an information technology major from Noblesville, Indiana, spent the summer on co-op at GEICO in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He used his information technology skills to work on business projects and other assignments, both individually and as a part of a team, and was pleased to discover that he and GEICO have something in common—both are interested in casting aside old traditions and embracing new ideas. He was offered and has accepted a full-time job at GEICO and will be starting work there as part of their Technology Development Program.

Young artists, writers win RIT/NTID’s digital arts, film, writing competitions

Wings, created by high school student Mai Lee Vang is a close up illustration of bird wings of various shades of brown.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has announced the winners of the annual Digital Arts, Film and Animation Competition for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, as well as the SpiRIT Writing Contest.

The Digital Arts, Film and Animation Competition for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, in its 10th year, generated dozens of entries in graphic media, photo imaging, film and 3D animation.

The winners of each category, receiving a $250 prize, are:

  • Film: Paola Colon of Chelsea, Mass., a student at Boston Arts Academy, for School Bullies.
  • Graphic Media: Reverlin Young of Hemet, Calif., a student at California School for the Deaf-Riverside, for The Story of My Life.
  • Photo Imaging: Mai Lee Vang of Gentry, Ark., a student at Arkansas School for the Deaf, for Wings.
  • 3D Animation: Austin Marden of Marion, Ind., a student at Indiana School for the Deaf, for Ghost Falcon.

The runners-up were:

  • Film: Christopher Kurogi of Orem, Utah, a student at Orem High School, for Rulu Adventure.
  • Graphic Media: Nabeela Shollenberger of Boonton, N.J., a student at Governor Livingston High School, for Cartoon Self-Portrait/Photoshop.
  • Photo Imaging: Guillermo “Alex” Castaneda of Little Rock, Ark., a student at Arkansas School for the Deaf, for Branford Pear, and Deanda Holloway of Lonoke, Ark., a student at Arkansas School for the Deaf, for Drip Drop.

The winning entries may be seen at

Winners of the SpiRIT Writing Contest were Eliana Rosenzweig of Rye Brook, N.Y., a student at Blind Brook High School for The Power of Premonition and Judgment; Christopher Brookes of North Chili, N.Y., a student at Bishop Kearney High School for his untitled submission; Regan Brady of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a student at Hathaway Brown School for Huck Finn: America’s Son; and Mia Hoffman of Westerville, Ohio, a student at Westerville North High School for Life Behind the Hearing Aid.

Writing contest winners receive their choice of $500 or a spot at NTID’s Explore Your Future summer camp.

For more information on the SpiRIT Writing Contest, go to

Apple Festival

graphic of a red apple with green leaf on gold background with the words Apple Festival in white

RIT/NTID’s Student Life Team presents the 18th annual Apple Festival 4-7 p.m. Friday, August 25 in the Frisina Quad. Rain location will be the CSD Student Development Center. Eat all things apple, enjoy entertainment and games and learn how to get involved in clubs and organizations at the resource fair. For more information, email

ASL Lecture Series presents Kat Brockway

black and white photo of Kat Brockway with long hair and dark shirt

RIT/NTID’s ASL Lecture Series presents “Wakening Deaf Culture & Bringing Values Back to the Deaf Community” with Kathleen “Kat” Brockway noon-1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 in SDC 1300/1310. Brockway also will be signing copies of her two books “Baltimore’s Deaf Heritage” and “Detroit’s Deaf Heritage” 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 in the second floor meeting room at Barnes & Noble @ RIT. 

RIT/NTID, Xamarin Inc. collaboration to provide opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mobile app development

Brian Trager in blue button down shirt gesturing in front of white board with writing on the board and overhead image display.

When faculty members at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf were creating a new degree program in mobile application development, they looked to cross-platform developer Xamarin Inc. for guidance and expertise. The result of this collaboration is the fall launch of a new academic program, which recently received approval by the New York State Education Department and earned a grant from the National Science Foundation of more than $820,000.

Funding from the three-year NSF grant, “RoadMaPPs to Careers: A New Approach to Mobile Apps Education featuring a Mapp for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students,” will train and equip students in RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department where the new program will be housed, and is based on the Xamarin cross-platform approach to mobile application development.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Xamarin assisted in the development of the new associate degree program, and company representatives serve on the advisory board for curriculum review. The company recently was acquired by Microsoft.

“Xamarin has given us access to their ‘Xamarin University’ curriculum materials, provided data we needed for our program and grant proposals, came to campus to carefully review our plans and gave us invaluable guidance,” said Elissa Olsen, chairperson of RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department. “We are so pleased that they have agreed to serve on our program advisory board and continue to guide the program in the future based on industry trends.”

The company also will support student-learning activities such as career awareness events and will hire students for co-op and full-time employment.

“We are proud that Xamarin will play a major role in the overall success of the mobile app development program, not only because the curriculum uses the Xamarin platform, but also because our experts will advise and assist the team on all aspects of the program,” said Bryan Costanich, vice president of education services at Xamarin Inc. “This is a unique opportunity to work with the deaf community to provide training and employment in one of the fastest growing industry segments.”