All posts by Kathy Johncox

Kathy is the editor and writer for Parent News. She is a Communications, Marketing & Multimedia Services Specialist at RIT/NTID.

Working Together marks a milestone of 1,000th workshop

John Macko stands in front of a u-shaped desk surrounded by people. Interpreter at the center. In foreground computer screen.

Working Together: Deaf and Hearing People, an interactive workshop to help employers integrate deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, has reached a milestone, celebrating 33 years and 1,000 workshop presentations.

The program, created by the Center on Employment at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, was designed to offer customizable training to help employers feel comfortable hiring deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. The sessions also give hearing participants information and hands-on experience to build their own strategies for working with deaf employees and being sensitive to their needs.

Workshop topics are offered to supervisors, human resource professionals and co-workers of deaf and hard-of-hearing employees. They include communication strategies, safety in the workplace, particularly in science-based or manufacturing companies, and a review of accommodations that might be necessary for employees.

According to center Director John Macko, there has been an increase in requests for workshops about new technologies that are available for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and their co-workers.

“Much has changed over the past 30 years when it comes to working and communicating with deaf people,” said Macko. “Today there are so many technologies and devices that facilitate communication and make it easier for hearing people to communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and vice versa. Our program is unique because we can tailor it to fully address the needs of the employers we serve.”

Workshop presentation teams—usually consisting of one hearing person and one deaf person—also teach employers about deaf culture and use hearing-loss simulation demonstrations and listening exercises to give participants a sense of what it’s like to be deaf.

Macko said the center coordinates about 30 workshops each year throughout the country, and team members visit companies of varying sizes, including Walt Disney Co., JP Morgan Chase, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Lockheed Martin, Merck, Tiffany and Co., Proctor and Gamble, and others. The 1,000th workshop was held at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

This program also has a positive impact on these employers for hiring NTID students and graduates for co-op and full time positions, Macko said. The workshops also help establish valuable relationships with companies, many of which return to NTID to recruit at the annual job fair.

“When we visit these companies to present our workshops, we also talk with them about the quality of our NTID students—tout their interpersonal skills, their motivation and dedication and the overall high employability of our students and graduates. We have the kind of students that employers want to hire.”

Deaf RIT graduate defines strength in the face of adversity

Amie Sankoh in a long-sleeved light color top, jeans and ankle boots sits w/sculpture of a roaring tiger with trees behind her.

Amie Sankoh has overcome many obstacles in her life—and her walk across the stage during this weekend’s commencement ceremony for RIT’s College of Science will mark the beginning of a new chapter.

The biochemistry student, who is deaf and supported by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, will begin studying in August for her Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. One day she hopes to use her expertise to conduct groundbreaking research on vaccine development and disease prevention.

As a young student in the west African country of Sierra Leone, Sankoh struggled due to her deafness and a lack of resources. Her parents, refusing to accept failure, made the bold decision to send their 12-year-old daughter to the United States where she would live with her father’s best friend and his family, attend better schools and ultimately gain more opportunities.

Sankoh’s breakthrough came in high school, where her love for mathematics and chemistry flourished. She also learned sign language, which enabled her to break down communication barriers with other deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

“Once I discovered my love for math, which was very visual, I knew that I could do anything with my life,” she said. “My mind was set on attending RIT/NTID because I knew that it was the right fit for me.”

Throughout her academic career, Sankoh participated in internships at top companies like Dow Chemical Co. in Pennsylvania and credits NTID faculty and staff for teaching her how to strengthen her communication skills, advocate for herself and develop her love for Deaf culture.

“My parents have always had very high expectations of their children, and they greatly value education,” she said. “NTID has given me the confidence to believe in myself and affirm that I can make it, especially in a tough science field. I’ve learned how to work with people who are hearing and deaf, study alongside faculty researchers and sharpen my interview skills. I just know that I’m going to make it. I work really hard.”

At NTID, Sankoh was a member of the Organization of African Students (OAS), Ebony Club, the Student Life Team and supported Spectrum, the LGBTIQ and straight alliance. And in March, Sankoh also become a U.S. citizen.

“Amie is an amazing person who exemplifies how to grow oneself,” said Joseph Johnston, director of RIT’s Center for Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. “Amie’s resiliency and optimistic attitude provided such benefits to herself and the RIT community. She is a very special human being and is one of my favorite students I have ever had the pleasure to work with.”

Sankoh added, “Life is hard and we all have challenges. I’ve fallen and have gotten back up every time. I’m proof that there is always a way to overcome challenges.”

At the University of Tennessee, Sankoh will have 24/7 access to interpreting and notetaking services and will also receive a stipend to conduct her research. She said although her father is somewhat shocked and surprised at her achievements, she knew, deep down, that he expected nothing less.

“My father is so impressed by everything that I’ve been able to accomplish. And I’m so proud that he will be able to watch me cross that stage and move one step closer to my achieving my dream.”

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

Artists image of a galloping horse in shades of browns, grays and whites

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. The contest, in its 11th year, generated dozens of entries in graphic media, photo illustration and 3D animation.

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

  • Graphic Media: Gabriel Veit of Austin, Texas, a student at Texas School for the Deaf, for The Wind.
  • Photo Illustration: Zee Grant of Denver, Colo., a student at Rocky Mountain Deaf School, for Snow Life.
  • 3D Animation: Connor Switenky of Frederick, Md., a student at Maryland School for the Deaf, for Phantasma.

The runners-up were:

  • Graphic Media: Jeni Kim of Charleston, S.C., a student at Charleston County School of the Arts, for Color of Silence.
  • Photo Illustration: Samantha Suarez of Jacksonville, Fla., a student at Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, for No Matter What’s Inside, and Nydia Cooper of St. James, La., a student at Ascension Catholic High School, for The River Meets Bayou.

Honorable mentions were:

  • Interactive Media: Denali Thorn of Indianapolis, a student at Indiana School for the Deaf, for UFO Kid.
  • Graphic Media: Grace Kominsky of Mount Wolf, Pa., a student at Northeastern Senior High School, for Instrumental Elephantal Semblance.

The winning entries may be seen at www.rit.edu/ntid/dafac/winners.

High school students in 10th or 11th grades won prizes for the RIT/NTID SpiRIT Writing Contest for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students. Winners have their choice of a scholarship and travel expenses to NTID’s Explore Your Future program, or a $500 cash prize.

Winners of the SpiRIT Writing Contest were Cecilia Gallagher of Bunker Hill, W.V., a student at Musselman High School, for Memories of the Fallen; and Hannah Van Sant of Sully, Iowa, a student at Pella Christian High School, for An Article Gone Awry. Honorable mentions were presented to Anna Kasper of St. Louis Park, Minn., a student at St. Louis Park High School, for Siddhartha’s Detachment; and Lillie Brown of Jacksonville, Ill., a student at Illinois School for the Deaf, for Sixteen is Way Too Young. Says Who?!

Animation Career Review has named RIT the top game design school on the East Coast

Two people working on computer screens with animation on the screens and keyboards in front of them.

Animation Career Review has named Rochester Institute of Technology the top game design school on the East Coast. RIT also ranked third on the list of Top 50 Game Design Schools in the U.S.

The 2017 rankings were created by Animation Career Review, an online resource for aspiring animation, game design and development, graphic design and digital art professionals. The annual list also named RIT the top game design school in New York state and second best private school nationally.

“It’s great to be recognized for the hard work we put into our outstanding programs in games,” said David Schwartz, director of RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media (IGM). “RIT stands out as a game design school because we provide opportunities for students and faculty to collaborate with others across the university—including RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences—and professionals in the industry.”

Animation Career Review noted that RIT offers several programs for aspiring game designers, including two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s. In fact, any student studying computing in RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences has the opportunity to minor in game design and development.

RIT’s Bachelor of Science in game design and development provides a broad-based undergraduate education in computing while exposing students to the breadth of game design and development processes. The bachelor’s program in new media interactive development also explores casual games, in addition to new technologies and experiences with web, wearable and mobile computing.

Students who pursue a master’s degree in game design and development at RIT focus on the technical roots in the computing and information sciences disciplines, while simultaneously covering the breadth of the development landscape through involvement in topics, including computer graphics, game engines, interactive narrative and game world design. The degree culminates with a capstone project in which students create their own games.

RIT game design students can also work with RIT’s MAGIC Center, a nonprofit university-wide research and development laboratory and a for-profit production studio that assists in efforts to bring digital media creations up to marketplace standards and commercialization. RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studios, which officially launched in November and will move into a new building in 2018, focuses on nurturing and growing new companies and publishing and distributing their projects.

The ranking also highlights RIT’s emphasis on cooperative education—full-time paid work experiences that provide students with an opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings. With help from the co-op program, graduates of RIT’s game design and development programs go on to work at companies including Microsoft, Rockstar Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Valve Corp. and Walt Disney Interactive.

For the full game design school rankings, go to animationcareerreview.com/articles/2017-game-design-school-rankings.

RIT is featured among ‘Colleges that Create Futures’

Logo of The Princeton Review in black with red curved arrow pointing up and right.

Rochester Institute of Technology is featured in the 2017 edition of The Princeton Review’s Colleges That Create Futures: 50 Schools That Launch Careers by Going Beyond the Classroom.

Out of nearly 1,000 colleges that The Princeton Review considered for this book, the 50 schools that made the cut comprise only about 2 percent of the nation’s approximately 3,000 four-year colleges. The Princeton Review said it chose the 50 schools based on data from its surveys of administrators and students at hundreds of universities between 2015 and 2017. Specifically, The Princeton Review editors weighed information about the colleges’ career center services; internship, externship, cooperative learning and collaborative research opportunities; and student engagement in community service and study abroad programs.

“RIT and the other colleges showcased in this book offer superb academics,” said the book’s author, Robert Franek, Senior VP-Publisher at The Princeton Review. “But what makes them stand out are the programs and services they offer outside the classroom which offer their students real-world experience, collaborative opportunities with faculty and networking opportunities with alumni, allowing them to graduate with outstanding job opportunities or acceptance to post-graduate studies at first-rate institutions.”

“RIT’s reputation among employers has bloomed over the past few decades, especially in Silicon Valley,” RIT alumnus Tad Hunt said in the book. “RIT graduates are known as something of a ‘secret weapon.’ I’ve been in Silicon Valley since 2000, and the reputation of RIT has grown immensely. When I first moved here, hardly [anybody] had heard of RIT. Now there is a huge number of alumni here working at all sizes of tech companies, and the RIT name is synonymous with folks that just ‘Get Stuff Done.’”

In its profile on RIT, the book says, “With 90 undergraduate programs in areas such as engineering, computing, information technology, engineering technology, business, hospitality, art, design, science, psychology, public policy, game design, photography, film and animation, health sciences, and biomedical sciences, RIT is laser-focused on creating students that are more than prepared to enter the job force. In fact, the RIT Class of 2015 boasts an enviable 95 percent undergraduate outcomes rate—the percentage of graduates who have entered the workforce, enrolled in further study, or are pursuing alternative plans (like military or volunteer service).”

In the book, RIT is cited for:

  • Excellence in its cooperative education program: “Cooperative education ensures that grads have relevant work experience to bring with them into a job interview right out of college... But beyond the security of employment after college, the students we surveyed said that they ultimately chose RIT because job satisfaction and working in a field they found interesting was important to them.”
  • Special interest housing: “If you are inspired by art, curious about computers, or passionate about photography, you may decide to live in one of RIT’s special-interest houses. Designed for students with shared interests, these seven self-governing houses offer a specific academic focus to residence-hall life. Here you’ll find programs and initiatives that range from the whimsical to the practical.”
  • The Construct, a makerspace on the fourth floor of Institute Hall, that provides materials and machinery in a workshop setting that students can use at no cost: “Designed from student feedback, The Construct serves the needs of innovative students seeking to create new products, inventions and applications… The makerspace also seeks to gain the involvement of a larger group of technologists and designers who emphasize general product design and development.”
  • Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship: “This program allows students to bring their entrepreneurial minds to the table and to potentially grow into something they can make a life on. Because the program enlists an equal number of technology, creative, and business students, participants can develop effective, well-rounded teams within their cohorts to develop and advance new business and technology ideas.”
  • MAGIC Spell Studios: “As part of a historical, first-of-its-kind venture, RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studios is a multi-disciplinary launchpad for digital products, including games, apps, animation, film and interactive art installations. RIT will be launching its new facility in 2018 in an effort to further link RIT’s internationally ranked academic programs with high-tech facilities needed to commercialize computer gaming, film and animation, and digital media projects.”
  • Leadership Institute and Community Service Center: “Understanding that students have busy schedules, the Center offers drop-in workshops, flexible programing and weekend retreats. It also offers certificate programs that can be completed in one to two years totally free of charge to RIT students…Coursework gives students a grounding in the theory and practice of leadership and a concrete vocabulary of experiences to share with potential employers during job interviews. It also gets students in touch with the practical concerns of the community through service work.”
  • RIT Alumni Network: Because of its extensive co-op programs, RIT sits atop a vast professional network of friends, alumni, and corporate partners, together providing students with career development support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and constructive examples. A number of different online mentoring networks make it easy for students to connect with someone in their field who can offer advice and support.”

Schools included in the book are profiled in alphabetical order and are not ranked. Each college profile has general information about the school, plus sections on its distinctive programs and institutes, career center services, and unique hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.

 
 
 
 
 

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