Category Archives: Success Stories

RIT/NTID Student Entrepreneurs, Hz Innovations, Are Part of RIT’s Saunders Summer Startup Program

Photo by: Keith Delk

Imagine secure software for cybercrime prevention, equipment with real-time feedback for weightlifters, a sound-recognition device for homeowners with hearing loss, or portable technology that brews Brazilian coffee and hot beverages on the go.

These are some of the jumpstart ventures at Saunders Summer Startup, a small-business launchpad at Rochester Institute of Technology where young innovators with bright ideas form interdisciplinary teams to start real companies. The 10-week crash course is sponsored by Saunders College of Business and the Albert J. Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

During the summer program, each of the eight startups below is offered a stipend, working space at the Simone Center, and receives support from RIT faculty, assigned mentors and community business leaders.

  • CASCADES: Acronym for Cyber Attack Scenario and Network Defense Simulator that streamlines the process of preventing cybercrime
  • Happy2c: A program to help people learn a new language from teachers and native speakers at a lower cost and at their own pace using a smartphone, tablet or computer
  • Hz Innovations: A sound recognition system to aid those with hearing loss that notifies the owner of a sound (doorbell, a child’s cry, alarm) through their software application on their smartphone, wearable device or laptop
  • LiftForce: Smart fitness sensor technology for gyms to provide weightlifters with real-time feedback that they can track, store and communicate to other lifters
  • Myspiderweb.com: A simplified tool for businesses to create and manage their social media content across multiple social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • SpynAlign: A postural control device for stroke patient rehabilitation that works by placing a smartphone on a specially designed vest worn by the patient that signals and alerts them when they need to align and correct their posture
  • UNA: A sustainable, smart and portable coffee maker that will allow users to brew their own coffee or tea on-the-go without any external power supply—complete with a coffee pod that delivers high quality Brazilian coffee beans
  • Wyvrn: The next generation of PawPrints, RIT’s website platform for students to create petitions for change; the education technology company is expanding their services to campuses across the U.S. to revolutionize the way student governments are run.

“Summer Startup is the most intensive entrepreneurial experience that we offer at RIT,” said Richard DeMartino, endowed chair and director of the Simone Center. “It’s both educational and developmental, and some of these businesses will actually become high growth businesses. In the past, we’ve had a couple that have raised a half million and a million dollars, and more.”

RIT/NTID Student, STEM Student Researcher Takes Top Prize at National Conference

Annette Tavernese, a Master of Science in Secondary Education student from Brick, New Jersey, took home the top prize at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM, in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Her presentation about the challenges faced by deaf and hard-of-hearing students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields earned her top points in the science and math education graduate student category.

In her presentation and throughout her supporting research, Tavernese cited social isolation as a main concern of these students, but provided ways that the challenges could be overcome.

“The Deaf STEM Community Alliance is addressing social isolation by creating a model virtual (online) academic community for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in science, technology, engineering and math majors, their faculty, mentors and staff,” explained Tavernese.

Tavernese’s research—which includes identifying the ideal time of day for STEM students’ online social interaction and which STEM topics generate the most interaction—is being conducted through a collaborative effort between RIT and other universities, including Camden County College and Cornell University, as well as with deaf and hard-of-hearing STEM professionals across the United States. The research project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Annette understands how important it is for students who are deaf or hard of hearing to understand science, technology, engineering and math concepts and to share that knowledge with others,” said Lisa Elliot, senior research scientist, principal investigator for the Deaf STEM Community Alliance and an NTID faculty member. “I was so proud to see her bring her enthusiasm about our project at the national conference, and I know that other attendees learned a great deal from her presentation.”

The conference was co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

RIT/NTID Student Ready to Face the Future

 

Mason Chronister carefully files away colorful memories of people he has met, places he has traveled, unforgettable experiences he’s had. As he faces his bright future, Chronister is anticipating making memories in a new way as he copes with the gradual loss of his vision.

Chronister, who will soon earn his associate in applied science degree in administrative support technology from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic condition resulting in a combination of hearing loss and slow-developing visual impairment that causes night blindness, loss of peripheral vision, and ultimately, complete vision loss. About four people in every 100,000 are diagnosed with the incurable condition.

“I was born deaf to hearing parents and attended mainstream schools,” said Chronister, from Red Lion, Pa. “I didn’t start noticing the effects of Usher Syndrome until I was about 14 years old. As time has gone on, it’s gotten worse. Today, I’m not able to see at night and my peripheral vision is so limited that I can’t see objects in my walking path. Sometimes I look clumsy because my balance has been affected. But despite all of my challenges, I’ve always known that I can accomplish anything—including realizing my dream of one day working for the government.”

In many ways, Chronister is not unlike so many other successful RIT graduates. He currently carries a 3.34 GPA and is a certified Microsoft specialist in Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint, and he plans to enter the workforce just weeks after crossing the commencement stage. At the end of May, he will use his skills as an administrative professional with the Defense Logistics Agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense located about an hour away from his home in Pennsylvania. In fact, this is Chronister’s second “tour of duty” with the agency. A successful co-op assignment last year helped secure permanent employment.

“I’ve always been fascinated by government—how it operates and how it impacts people’s lives,” he said. “Although I’m deaf and have limited vision, I’m able to work with my supervisor and co-workers to expertly execute my job, which includes documenting sensitive military information.”

Further filling his mental “memory book,” Chronister was the first RIT student with Usher Syndrome to study abroad in Italy, taking in the sights of Rome, Florence, Vatican City and Siena. He has also traveled extensively throughout the United States, visiting one of his favorite spots, San Francisco, where he actually hugged a part of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Yes, I hugged it,” he laughed. “And I hugged a column in the Roman Colosseum, too. When I see something famous, it’s what I do. It’s like it helps me commit it to memory and it literally helps put me in touch with these fascinating objects.”

Back at NTID, Chronister has performed small roles in theatrical productions including Damn Yankees! and Hairspray.

“It’s challenging for me to participate in theater because of the dramatic lighting and the many stage props in my path,” he said. “It’s a true team effort—from our director to the other deaf and hearing actors and interpreters—to be sure that everything comes together and works out for me. I saw another student with Usher Syndrome participate in the theater, and that really inspired me. And my participation seems to have inspired others to join in,” he said.

Those who know Chronister well say that he is destined to live a great life.

“Mason is awesomely intriguing,” said Jonathan Holmes, his employment adviser at NTID. “He is unafraid to step into vulnerability and embrace his own authenticity. Being around him is truly a breath of fresh air and inspires me to be better in my work and in life. He brings light to everyone that he comes into contact with and has a very keen understanding of life. Mason is one of the few individuals I have ever encountered that has found the secret of living an honest and fulfilling life at such a young age.”

“No one knows what the future holds,” Chronister adds. “Every day they are making strides in the medical field and I continue to keep my strong faith. With the support of my family and friends, I refuse to let my loss of vision and hearing prevent me from doing everything I want to do. I refuse to set up barriers for my own success.”

RIT/NTID Engineering Students Create 3D Printed Parts for a Drone

A collaboration between Steven Forney, an alumnus working as a research associate at University of Alabama at Huntsville and Gary Behm, one of his former professors at RIT resulted in Behm’s Manufacturing Processes class of RIT/NTID engineering students experiencing an exciting real-world work experience.

Steven Forney, began a 3D CAD venture with the students to benefit an on-going project he has developed—taking a drone with him to demonstrate the engineering technology at schools and other colleges. Forney needed to assemble and disassemble the drone each time he traveled with it—a tedious process. Behm saw an opportunity for his class to work with Forney as an actual customer, on an engineering project. The expected outcome was that the drone could be changed from a ready-to-fly mode to a travel-accessible mode in a significantly less amount of time than currently was required.

Behm and Forney set up the project so that Forney and the students could meet via Skype. There, Forney outlined his real-world work requirements—writing a technical document, understanding the customer’s requirements, and understanding the scope of the project. Each team sketched three different designs relating to a travel-friendly retractable and/or quick disconnect system for the drone. After Forney’s approval on one design for each team, the students began sketching with the 3D computer aided drafting technology and created actual plastic parts using the 3D printer in the Department of Engineering Studies for the drone that would make it more easily transportable for Forney. Wendy Dannels, who teaches the 3D CAD course, supported the students with their 3D drawings.

“Each team will deliver their prototype adaptor, engineering documents and poster at the semester’s end,” says Behm. 

Forney is pleased with the work on a solution to his travel woes. “Also, I was happy that the student teams were excited about the project and excited that they got to keep their 3D printed parts,” says Forney. He will use the students’ prototype solutions to assist him in building a final adapter for his drone.

RIT/NTID Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars

Rochester Institute of Technology honored 104 students whose academic and personal achievements have made them this year’s Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars.

The awards, bronze medallions, were presented in ceremonies on April 16, 2015 to those students who have met the scholarship criteria—a minimum grade-point average of 3.85 out of 4.0; completed more than two-thirds of the credit hours required for a bachelor’s degree; and demonstrated community engagement, such as creative work, serve on student committees, civic activities, employment or independent research.

“RIT is pleased to pay tribute to these undergraduates whose demonstrated devotion to excellence is an inspiration to the university community,” said Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs, who presented the scholars to President Bill Destler and RIT deans at the ceremony in Gordon Field House.

The 2014-15 RIT/NTID Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars are:

Nathan Scott
A graduate of Guilderland High School in Guilderland, N.Y., Nathan is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Applied Arts and Sciences. He has worked as an NTID math tutor and is a member of the Premedical Student Association and the Asian Deaf Club. Nathan is the recipient of the Ronald Dodge Scholarship, the NTID Presidential Scholarship and the Sertoma Scholarship for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and enter the field of sports analytics.

Natalie Snyder
A graduate of Rockville High School in Maryland, Natalie is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. She served as a Red Cross volunteer at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with a focus on prosthetics, orthotics and physical therapy. Natalie is an NTID student ambassador and a math and physics tutor at the NTID Learning Center. She is on the RIT swimming and diving team. She is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and the Cross-Registered Student Advisory Board. After graduation she plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy.

Kyle Murbach
A graduate of Hindsdale South High School in Wheaton, Ill., Kyle is pursuing a bachelor’s/master’s degree in Computing Security. He completed an internship at the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations at the National Security Agency (NSA). He is the recipient of the (ISC)2 Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship and Harold F. Tipton Scholarship, the Bridgestone Americas, Inc. Scholarship, the Nathaniel Rochester Society Scholarship, the Lucille R. Jennings Scholarship, the NTID Vice President & Dean Scholarship, the NTID Presidential Scholarship, and the RIT Presidential Scholarship. After graduation, Kyle plans to become a malware analyst in a government or corporate setting.

Brett Morris
A graduate of Farmington High School in Connecticut, Brett is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Game Design and Development. He worked as an animation teaching assistant at RIT and the University of Washington Summer Academy for Advancing the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Computing. Brett is the recipient of the Game Innovators Scholarship, the NTID Presidential Scholarship, and the RIT Presidential Scholarship and is a member of the Honors Program. After graduation, Brett plans to find work in the game or movie industry.

Rachel Green
A graduate of Central High School in Springfield, Mass., Rachel is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language–English Interpretation. She received a degree in deaf studies from Holyoke Community College. She is a member of the RIT Deaf chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma, Epsilon Pi. She worked as a residential advisor and in the RIT Information and Technology Services Command Center. After graduation, Rachel plans to return to Massachusetts and continue working as a sign language interpreter.

Catherine Lambe
A graduate of Whitesboro (N.Y.) High School, Catherine is pursuing a bachelor’s in American Sign Language–English Interpretation. She worked as a student interpreter in the Department of Access Services at NTID and as a financial assistant at the club resource center on campus. Catherine is a member of the Honors Program and provides volunteer interpreting services at City Hall in Rochester and other community locations. After graduation, Catherine plans to move to Boston where she will pursue her national interpreting certification and work as an interpreter in the healthcare field.