Winners of RIT/NTID’s Next Big Idea announced

Chris Wagner, Wade Keller, Hans Khols and Gerry Buckley together in front of brick wall with a check.

BAGMAG, a hands-free solution for making skateboards more easily portable on the back of a backpack, took home the $5,000 first prize in the 2017 Next Big Idea competition at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Judges from the competition’s sponsor, ZVRS, a video relay service headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, reviewed the projects of the four team finalists, asked questions and selected first, second and third place winners:

$5,000 First Place: BAGMAG, uses a strong magnet inserted on the backpack that connects to a strong magnet affixed to the bottom of the skateboard and eliminates the need to remove the backpack and use straps to affix the skateboard.

$3,000 Second Place: ASL Storyteller, an interactive app that offers sign language to babies, both hearing and deaf, to help with language development and creates a richer environment for signing babies.

$2,000 Third Place: Expect Zone, a rear-view mirror with three flashing lights that lets deaf or hard-of-hearing drivers know when an ambulance, police car or fire engine is coming near. It flashes more quickly as the emergency vehicle gets closer.     

Four teams of deaf and hard-of-hearing students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf went head-to-head April 26 during The Next Big Idea Competition, a ”Shark Tank” style business competition.

The contest is an annual event where teams of students combine skills related to their individual majors to create innovative products, technology or businesses. Teams work with mentors on their projects and compete before judges for cash prizes. This year marks the sixth anniversary of The Next Big Idea competition.

Team members are:

ASL Storyteller—Julie Love, a Graphic Design major from Riverside , California, and Logan Lugo, an International Business major from Columbus, Ohio.

BAGMAG—Hans Khols , an Industrial Design major from Boston, Massachusetts, and Wade Kellard, a Mechanical Engineering Technology major from Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Expect Zone— Amelia Hamilton, a New Media Marketing major from Austin, Texas, and Tanner Ketchum, an Accounting Technology major from Austin, Texas.

VIGN— Tobin Zolkowski, a Communication and Criminal Justice major from Neenah, Wisconsin, Iswor Ghimire, a Global Computing major from Nepal, Mohd Afifi Ishak, an Industrial Design major from Malaysia, and Jose Lopez, an Applied Computer Technology major from Los Angeles, California. Vign, described as a “Netflix for deaf people,” is designed to stream program content in sign language.

 “The Next Big Idea competition is the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work, creativity and innovation on the part of these student inventors and entrepreneurs,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “We have seen some amazing products and services start in this competition and move into production. We thank ZVRS for their steadfast support since the beginning of the Next Big Idea, and are grateful for the belief they have in our students.” 

Knowing the Basics Pays Off

Student with baseball cap, mustache and blue shirt posing at Job Fair

Connor Fitzgerald, a student from from Lennon, Michigan, had a co-op as a machinist at Gleason Works in Rochester, New York. He had learned the basics and more in his Computer Intergrated Machining Technology classes and was able to apply his knowledge to the job right away. Connor was offered a full-time job at Gleason Works, which he accepted and he's on his way to a bright future. more

Winners announced in national math competition

Group of four students in matching t-shirts working together on math problem with computer and calculators in front of them.

Winners have been announced in Rochester Institute of Technology’s annual Math Competition for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

The competition, held at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf April 7–9, welcomed 140 deaf and hard-of-hearing middle school students from Alabama; Connecticut; Ohio; California; Georgia; Delaware; Florida; New York; Texas; Indiana; Kansas; Washington, D.C.; Massachusetts; New Jersey; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; Minnesota; Colorado; Washington; Tennessee; Pennsylvania; and New Mexico as well as Canada.

They competed in tasks that tested their speed and accuracy, teamwork and math skills.

Individual winners:

  • First ($100): Crystal Salit of Boyds, Md., from Maryland School for the Deaf.
  • Second ($75): Trey Johnson of Kyle, Texas, from Texas School for the Deaf.
  • Third ($50): Luke Wood of Fishers, Ind., from Indiana School for the Deaf.

Team winners:

  • First ($300): Maryland School for the Deaf
  • Second ($200): Texas School for the Deaf
  • Third ($100): Kenneth R. Olson Middle School,

Top Scorer: Crystal Salit of Boyds, Md., from Maryland School for the Deaf.

Most spirited team: E.C. Drury School for the Deaf, Milton, Ontario, Canada.

More information about the contest is available at http://www.ntid.rit.edu/prospective/mathcounts.
 

Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars 2017

Five students and an administrator pose against an orange and brown backdrop on stage

The Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar Awards

Congratulations to RIT/NTID’s Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars, who are pictured here with NTID Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Stephen Aldersely: left to right, Radhika Mehra, Joan Bempong, Annie Monaco, Aldersley, Sarah LaMascus and Maxfield Orr.

A tradition at RIT since 1976, the Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar Awards honor the top 1% of undergraduate students who are able to maintain a high standard of academic excellence while also giving back to their community through civic or volunteer work, conducting research or being engaged in co-op or work in their field of study.

The awards event itself not only celebrates our Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars, but it also gives them an opportunity to acknowledge a past teacher or professor who has had a significant impact on their academic career.

A Bright New Day for Sunshine 2.0

One male actor and two females actors in robot costumes looking and laughing at a STEM tree

RIT/NTID alumnus Fred Michael Beam finds connections where others may not. As the coordinator of RIT/NTID’s traveling performance troupe Sunshine 2.0, Beam connects performing arts and science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM—themes, for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing children and adults around the country.

Sunshine 2.0 is a reboot of the Sunshine Too program that was created in 1980. During its 19-year history, Sunshine Too visited 48 states and numerous countries, providing more than 12,500 performances for more than 1.3 million people worldwide.

Beam brings a global perspective to Sunshine 2.0, having worked with a variety of dance companies, and has performed around the world.

For his outstanding work with the deaf community, Beam was chosen one of Essence magazine’s Real Men of the Year, and has been DEAF LIFE magazine’s Deaf Person of the Month.

“The vision of Sunshine 2.0 is to reach out to people and show them their commonality,” Beam said. “I’m interested in bridging the gap between communities and cultures.

“I was working in public schools in the Washington, D.C., area when I first saw Sunshine Too perform. I never thought that one day I would be re-establishing it.”

Sunshine 2.0 is made up of experienced performers Ronnie Bradley, a deaf actor and dancer from Washington, D.C., and Katie Mueller, who is hearing from Rochester and has a BFA in performance from Emerson College in Boston.

The troupe incorporates sign language and speech to ensure that all audiences can access the performances.

Sunshine 2.0 began this fall. As coordinator, Beam develops their themes, scripts and travel schedules.

“We are focused on the theme of bullying,” he said. “It’s an important and relatable topic. There is acting and poetry, written by deaf poets, spoken and sign language, dance and movement. Our ultimate goal is to share Sunshine 2.0 with the world.”

For Beam, coordinating a performing arts program that incorporates deafness and STEM themes is a perfect fit—he earned his degree at RIT/NTID in engineering technology in 1985 and was introduced to the performing arts.

“It feels like this job was made for me,” he said.

Beam was first exposed to theater at NTID, having been asked to join the dance troupe in part because of his moves on the RIT basketball court.

“The dance teacher was watching a game and asked me to join his class. I then got involved in theater at NTID and graduated with a rich theater experience.”

Beam’s depth of experience as a performer, coordinator and member of the deaf community are assets as he looks to grow Sunshine 2.0.

“This program can reach so many students with its messages of hope and inclusion,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “We are fortunate to have Fred ‘back home’ at NTID leading the resurgence of Sunshine 2.0.”

Editor's note: Ivanna Genievsky from Frederick, Maryland,  has been added to the troupe since the printing of this article.

RIT adds new bachelor’s degree in exercise science

Female student lays on exam table with breathing apparatus in her mouth as another female student reads the output data..

Rochester Institute of Technology is offering a bachelor's degree in exercise science, with its first freshman class beginning in the fall semester.

The four-year program is the first new degree offered through the Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology. Exercise science applies health, fitness, physiology, biomechanics and psychology toward enhancing athletic performance and preventing or managing chronic illness, such as cardiac disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems. More.

RIT/NTID’s Robert Panara to be honored in stamp event April 11

Image of stamp with dark background and Robert Panara in glasses, gray shirt and purple sweater signing

The First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony for the Robert Panara two-ounce Forever stamp will take place 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 11 in Panara Theatre, LBJ Hall on the RIT campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The program will feature U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer David Williams, President of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and Rochester Institute of Technology Vice President and Dean Dr. Gerard Buckley, NTID Instructional/Support Faculty member John Panara (son), Stamp Photographer Mark Benjamin and Author and NTID Professor Emeritus Dr. Harry Lang

The public may RVSP online at usps.com/rpanara. Followers of the U.S. Postal Service’s Facebook page can view live streaming video of the event at facebook.com/USPS, and are asked to use the hashtags #PanaraForever and #DeafEducation on social media.

The Postal Service’s 16th stamp in the Distinguished Americans series honors Robert Panara (1920-2014), an influential teacher and a pioneer in the field of Deaf Studies. He inspired generations of students with his powerful use of American Sign Language to convey works of literature. At age 10, Panara was profoundly deafened after contracting spinal meningitis, which damaged his auditory nerves.

Panara taught English for two decades, beginning in 1948, at Gallaudet College (now University), in Washington, DC. In 1967, he helped found the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and became its first deaf faculty member. For the next 20 years, he taught English to both deaf and hearing students at NTID, part of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York State.

The two-ounce Forever stamp features a photograph of Panara signing the word “respect.” The issuance coincides with the 200th anniversary of the founding in 1817 of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT — marking the beginning of formal education for deaf students in America.

Once purchased, the stamp is always good for mailing two-ounce First-Class letters anytime in the future, regardless of price changes. The current price is 70-cents.

RIT/NTID’s Geraldine Dang shares her international study experience

Woman with long dark hair, smiling wearing glasses and a blue long-sleeved top carrying a blue umbrella w/flower design on it.

RIT/NTID student Geraldine Dang was featured in RIT's Fellowships & Scholarships for Global Education newsletter. She is a 3D Digital Design major and studied in Singapore, supported by The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. 

"Before I attended NTID, I had no idea what studying abroad was. While at NTID, some of my friends chose to study or work as interns in Italy, Croatia, Japan and China. I then began to dream that I could do something similar one day. I chose to apply to a program in Singapore because Singapore is known for its use of advanced technology. With my background in Graphic Technology and 3D Digital Design, I am interested in all Digital Design work. Also, Singapore is well known for its multiculturalism where the different nationalities (Chinese, Indians, Malaysians, and Caucasians) live together in harmony. The streets, I am told, have signs in four different languages! The government promotes respect of the different cultures, funds the technologies, and provides universal healthcare to its citizens. This is the “caring” aspect of the culture I would like to learn along with how the deaf people live in Singapore. Finally, my grandfather used to be a diplomat working in both Malaysia and Singapore, and it means a lot for me to be able to study and have an internship at a place where he used to work.

"My advisor suggested that I apply for the Benjamin Gilman International scholarship to help pay for the trip abroad. Even though I was nervous to write the essays, I knew that the statement of purpose essay should describe me and my aspirations, and that my project proposal essay should be meaningful. For my follow up project, I plan to capture my daily activities on video and share my thoughts about studying and working abroad. The video will be presented at RIT and NTID with help from RIT Global to inspire other students. I will also present it to the Rochester School for the Deaf and to my family and friends."