RIT/NTID earns National Science Foundation funding to explore augmented reality technology

Darker skinned female student wearing augmented reality goggles. Light skinned female faculty is adjusting the goggles on her.

Using augmented reality to make science, technology, engineering and math content more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing learners in live presentation settings is the goal of a $258,000 grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Researchers and developers at RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology Laboratory will focus on hands-on learning and comprehension at science centers and museums.

According to researchers, prior work on augmented reality in education has shown positive results, however, this work has largely overlooked the deaf and hard-of-hearing population. This project represents the first step in a partnership between RIT/NTID and the Rochester Museum & Science Center, which includes the Rochester Challenger Learning Center.

The proposed project involves developing an AR platform that will allow deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors to receive signed or captioned instruction while still looking at and/or interacting with exhibits. The platform will allow for transmission of live and spontaneous (not only scripted or pre-recorded) instruction at museums and planetariums nationwide.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing learners, ages 11 to 14 from around the United States, will serve as a test audience for the pilot implementation. The team will collect data on the use of this technology to help set future directions for additional research and development.

This project focuses on broadening participation and promoting innovation in informal STEM learning, which is crucial for deaf and hard-of-hearing youth, who are frequently excluded from informal and incidental learning STEM experiences and subsequently enter STEM professions at significantly lower rates than the hearing population,” said Wendy Dannels, RIT/NTID research associate professor and principal investigator on the project.

Dannels says the development team working on these AR technologies will be composed primarily of deaf and hard-of-hearing students and faculty, framing the community as a source of technical innovation rather than simply being recipients of these solutions.

“This project represents a first step in setting future directions for research and development and to make educational materials more accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community,” she added.

RIT among schools to receive $1 million for clean energy project

Light skinned female with long dark hair at podium with US flag and banner on energy in background.

Rochester Institute of Technology has won $1 million as part of the Energy to Lead Competition, which challenges New York colleges and universities to develop plans for local clean energy projects on campus and in their communities as the state seeks innovative solutions to combat climate change.

RIT will create a platform that integrates multiple data sources to enable a building’s existing automation system to manage operation schedules, adjust ventilation rates in classrooms and respond to peak demand days, according to Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability adviser to the president. Cardinal will serve as lead principal investigator on the project.

The platform, once tested and deployed at RIT, will be tested at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus and then made publicly available free of charge for other institutions to leverage. The project is expected to result in the avoidance of 108 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

“Through the ‘Energy to Lead’ competition, New York is fostering clean energy innovation to help fight climate change and protect our environment,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “I commend the students and faculty for their steadfast commitment to improving their campus and community, helping to create a cleaner, greener New York for all.”

The Energy to Lead Competition, announced by Gov. Cuomo in 2015, is part of the REV Campus Challenge, which recognizes and supports colleges and universities across New York state that strive to meet their financial, environmental, academic and community goals through clean energy solutions.

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and member of the REV Campus Challenge, RIT has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“This project leverages many of RIT’s strengths, including our innovative spirit, the cutting-edge nature of our academic programs, and the way our campus serves as a laboratory for experiential learning,” RIT President David Munson said during yesterday’s announcement of the Energy to Lead grant inside RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. “We applaud Gov. Cuomo for investing in research that addresses solutions to global challenges and for recognizing the important role of higher education in working toward these solutions.”

Applicant schools were required to submit projects which demonstrate innovation in one or more of the following areas: project design, business model, partnerships, and/or curriculum integration. Schools and universities were also required to describe the project’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, how they would measure success and how they would use the funding to advance the project. These projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,125 metric tons over the next five years.

The competition is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and open to two- or four-year public or private colleges or universities. The competition challenges schools to develop ideas for innovative projects in energy efficiency, renewable energy or greenhouse gas emission reduction on campus, in the classroom and in surrounding communities.   

This round of Energy to Lead included 24 project submissions from 21 different public and private colleges and universities across the state. Applications were reviewed by an evaluation panel and winners were chosen based on project cost effectiveness, innovativeness, energy efficiency and clean energy measures, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions and how funding would be used to advance the project on campus and in the community.

For more information on Energy to Lead, go to NYSERDA’s website.

RIT/NTID honors researchers with Sponsored Programs Awards

Group photo of 14 smiling men and women with orange flower corsages.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf recently honored 12 researchers and program directors for their work leading to new knowledge, strategies or programs and services to improve the lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. 

Award recipients are:

Scholarship Portfolio Development Initiative (SPDI) – Internal seed funding opportunity for early-career faculty and contract research faculty, whose projects typically represent the initial stages of projects that could attract external support in the future. They are:

  • Robyn Dean, assistant professor in NTID’s American Sign Language and Interpreting Education Department: Investigating interpreter fatigue, and how it can be exaggerated or mitigated by varying the way in which pairs of interpreters work.
  • Jason Nordhaus, assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Science and Mathematics: Exploring the behavior of a black hole inside a giant star using dynamical 3D simulations.
  • Corrine Occhino, research assistant professor in NTID’s Sign Language Laboratory: Along with co-investigator Joseph Hill, examining the variations in ASL that correlate to diverse regional, racial, ethnic, and socio-economic factors and evaluating how ASL users regard the use of non-standard varieties of the language.
  • Jessica Trussell, assistant professor in NTID’s Master of Science program in Secondary Education and researcher in NTID’s Center for Education Research Partnerships: Developing and implementing an intensive approach to reading comprehension for deaf and hard-of-hearing readers that requires students to work in collaborative groups. 

NTID Sponsored Programs Awards – A new award program that recognizes individuals who have made a difference. Awardees are nominated by NTID faculty. Awards include:

Student Research Mentor Award to Bonnie Jacob, assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Science and Mathematics. Jacob’s work has supported 17 student researchers. She is the principal investigator of the first all-deaf and hard-of-hearing Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) program supported by the NSF. 

Up-and Coming PI Award to Jason Nordhaus, assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Science and Mathematics. Nordhaus is nationally known for research describing stellar evolution. He is affiliated with RIT’s College of Science and its world-renowned Center on Computational Relativity and Gravity (CCRG).

Collaborator Award to Keith Mousley, associate professor in NTID”s Department of Science and Mathematics. Mousley’s work collaborating with other researchers explores issues connected to teaching math and other STEM skills to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Co-PI Award to Myra Pelz, associate professor and co-PI for DeafTEC. For the past seven years, Pelz has been the full-time co-PI of DeafTEC, one of NTID’s signature programs with more than 29 partner high schools in 17 states.

PI Award to Matt Dye, assistant professor and Deaf x Laboratory director. Dye has successfully launched a long-range program of research in cognitive neuroscience supported by a total of seven awards from NIH, NSF, and the Swiss National Science Foundation, as well as one SPDI award. Dye’s funded projects presently employ a full-time research coordinator and a postdoctoral scholar, and support the efforts of graduate and undergraduate research assistants.

Partner Award to Matt Huenerfauth, associate professor in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. Presented to a collaborator from one of RIT’s other colleges who has helped NTID realize its goals, the award recognized Huenerfauth as a key partner in projects investigating topics in mixed mode communication and communication technology. He is the founder of the Linguistic and Assistive Technologies Laboratory (“LATLab”), a bilingual (English / ASL) research lab.

Pioneer Award to Mike Stinson, professor and NTID research faculty member. This award recognizes Stinson for his pioneering work to develop speech-to-text technology for the higher education classroom, work that continues to the present in the guise of research on automated speech recognition. C-Print® is the first research-based speech-to-text (captioning) technology and service for educational usage, and has been used in educational environments across the country in grades 4 through postsecondary programs.

X-Factor Award to Donna Easton, research assistant, NTID’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Virtual Academic Community. The award, honoring those who support the work of a project team, was given to Easton for her critical contributions to 11 funded projects including C-Print® and the Virtual Academic Community.

Founders Award to Jim DeCaro, NTID dean emeritus. This award acknowledges a lifetime of achievement in educational programming for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, along with DeCaro’s success in spreading the knowledge and educational expertise of NTID faculty around the world. DeCaro’s vision and drive also were instrumental in establishing NTID’s first dedicated research facility, Rosica Hall, which is presently at full occupancy with four centers, one major program, one research lab, and other research projects that are largely funded by external grants. 

“NTID’s 50th anniversary year is an excellent time to introduce this recognition program,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “The program celebrates why principal investigators seek funding – because they need resources so that they can continue to make a difference in the world.” 

RIT/NTID Career Fair to bring record number of employers to campus to recruit deaf, hard-of-hearing students

overhead photo of LBJ Hall street area with employer tables, banners, recruiters and students.

Representatives from more than 50 local and national corporations, federal agencies and nonprofit organizations looking to diversify their workforce will meet with hundreds of deaf and hard-of-hearing students—who are also prospective employees—at the 18th annual Career Fair, 12:30–4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The event will be held in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall on the RIT campus.

A record 53 companies, including Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Merck, NavSea, Texas Instruments, the CIA and Prudential Financial, are participating in this year’s career fair. Quicken Loans, PNC and Datto, the cybersecurity and data backup company whose founder, RIT alumnus Austin McChord, recently donated $50 million to RIT, will be attending for the first time.

Interpreters will be available at each table to facilitate communication as recruiters meet the estimated 400 students participating.

Between 25 and 35 RIT/NTID alumni will be coming to Rochester this year to represent their companies at the career fair, serving as recruiters and role models for deaf and hard-of-hearing student job seekers.

“We are always so pleased and proud to see so many of our graduates come back to recruit for their companies,” said John Macko, director of NTID’s Center on Employment. “It’s gratifying to see them come ‘full circle’ and help the next group of students find their place in the world of work.”

An employer panel consisting of representatives from PNC, Route 66 Promotions, Naval Sea Systems Command and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will provide students with insight into what companies are looking for in new employees from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16, in the college’s CSD-Student Development Center, rooms 1300/1310.

RIT/NTID’s Center on Employment, the career fair sponsor, also will recognize four companies who consistently hire deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. The companies are Eastman Kodak Co., the Learning Center for the Deaf, Route 66 Promotions and Prudential Financial.

RIT/NTID graduate receives DOD award for outstanding employees with disabilities

At left, light skinned man with white hair, glasses, suit and tie; at right, Asian woman with long dark hair glasses dark blazer

An RIT/NTID alumna is one of about two dozen Department of Defense employees who received a 2018 Secretary of Defense Award for Outstanding Service Members and Civilians with Disabilities.

Tracy Tao-Moore ’92 (graphic design) is the lead graphic artist for the Mission Support Branch, Technology Division, U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky.

She received the award Oct. 4 during the 38th Annual Disability Awards Ceremony at the Pentagon. The ceremony is part of DOD’s annual observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, held each October. 

The award recognizes personnel with disabilities for their contributions in support of the DOD mission and recognizes exemplary department organizations for their efforts to advance a diverse and inclusive workforce.  

“I am shocked and totally surprised," Tao-Moore said. "I feel humbled to be selected for this prestigious award. It never occurred to me that I would receive it. This is probably my proudest achievement.”

HRC’s graphic arts office produces more than 500 printed and designed products each year. Tao-Moore collaborates with customers to ensure visual presentations, training aids, briefing resources and other graphics-oriented materials meet their needs. 

Tao-Moore uses a variety of computer hardware, software products, peripherals, drawings, page layouts, color separations processes, signs, sketches and original artwork. During her 21 years of government service, she has often been the only graphic artist in the locations where she has worked. 

RIT students prepare for largest University-Wide Career Fair

RIT students in professional attire line up to sepak to employers at Career Fair.

Nearly 270 employing organizations from 30 states seeking Rochester Institute of Technology students and graduates are attending the 2018 Fall University-Wide Career Fair on October 3, 2018. It will be the largest career fair RIT has hosted in its 17 years of hosting career fairs.

The fair is open to current RIT students and alumni. The event allows them to meet with prospective employers to explore career opportunities for internship, cooperative education and entry- or experienced-level positions.

RIT’s cooperative education model is one of the oldest and largest in the country. More than half of the students participating in co-op will go to work for one of their co-op employers upon graduation, said Maria Richart, director of RIT’s Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education. Richart added the turnout is a clear reflection of the continued strong demand for the outstanding student talent RIT produces. More.

RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center director named ‘40 Under 40’ honoree

Light skinned female with short dark hair, wearing grey blazer and multicolored scarf standing next to art sculpture.

Known throughout Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf as a “force of nature,” Tabitha Jacques has been selected as a 2018 Forty Under 40 honoree by the Rochester Business Journal.

As director of NTID’s Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center, Jacques has been credited with expanding the number and enhancing the quality of exhibitions, including curating first-ever exhibits by deaf, black and deaf, Latinx artists; increasing NTID’s permanent collection of art, making it one of the largest collections of works by deaf artists anywhere in the world; collaborating with other organizations, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, to highlight art work by people with disabilities; and, along with RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology, has developed a mobile application providing gallery accessibility to deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind and blind museum visitors.

“Since arriving at NTID three years ago, Tabitha has moved all measurables in a positive direction,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Tabitha is working to change the face of museum accessibility in the Rochester area, and her efforts will bring about countless benefits to the Rochester community and beyond.”

Jacques, from Baton Rouge, La., formerly worked as assistive communication technology program manager at the Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington state and as an admissions counselor at Gallaudet University. Prior to that, she worked as an exhibit curator for the Gallaudet University Museum Project and as an adjunct professor. She was also special projects coordinator for the National Postal Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She earned a Master of Arts in art history and museum studies from Georgetown University. In 2009, she received the Diversity Fellowship from the American Association of Museums, and she wrote the publication Introduction and Experience Within Space. She is also an accomplished lecturer.

Valerie Alhart, a 2015 graduate of RIT’s Saunders College of Business, is also among the honorees. Alhart, who earned her MBA, is senior director of marketing and communications for Pandion Optimization Alliance.

RBJ’s Forty Under 40 recognizes 40 men and women, under the age of 40, who have achieved professional success and have also made significant civic contributions to the community. The recipients will be honored Nov. 14 in a ceremony at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

RIT/NTID honors inaugural group of Maguire Scholars

Five students standing with Dr. Gerry Buckley. Students are in casual dress and Dr. Buckley is in a shirt and tie.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has named its first group of Maguire Scholars. The students, who are deaf or hard of hearing, will each earn $5,000 per year, up to four years, and must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 while actively participating in extracurricular activities or community service.

This year’s RIT/NTID Maguire Scholars are Ty Brady, a transfer student in biology from East Central University in Ada, Okla.; Cameron Carey, a first-year computing security major from Carlisle, Pa.; Trinity McFadden, a first-year criminal justice major from Norwalk, Conn.; Ethan Misal, a first-year undeclared engineering technology major from Mechanicsburg, Pa.; and Nathan Murray, a first-year visual communication major from Harrisburg, Pa.

According to the website, the Maguire Scholars program “supports and enriches the leaders of tomorrow by providing an opportunity for an excellent education.” The Maguire Foundation is committed to improving the quality of life for people by investing in education, arts and humanities, and relief of hunger and homelessness and provides last-dollar scholarship support to up to five students in each institution’s incoming class. NTID was selected because of its history of excellence in providing educational programs that lead to successful careers.

“RIT/NTID is proud of our partnership with the Maguire Foundation,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “The students who have earned this prestigious scholarship are among the best and brightest at our university, and we look forward to watching them flourish in their academic pursuits and continue along their path to success.”

RIT’s Big Shot illuminates Old Fort Niagara

Old Fort Niagara, a French castle, is shown illuminated with light in evening with colonial soldiers and a cannon in foreground.

The opportunity to “paint light” on a historic fortress drew more than 800 hundred people to Old Fort Niagara to help make the annual Rochester Institute of Technology’s nighttime Big Shot photograph a picturesque success.

The volunteers, including 72 RIT students who traveled to the Canadian border from RIT's campus, and more than 100 alumni, provided the primary light source for the Big Shot image while RIT photographers shot an extended exposure with Old Fort Niagara nearly completely darkened. More.