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Archive of posts from January, 2014

RIT/NTID Athletes Inspired by Super Bowl Player

31 Jan

RIT/NTID student athletes find inspiration in the story of deaf NFL player Derrick Coleman, who will play in the Super Bowl.

RIT/NTID Alumnus Hopes Third Time is the Charm on “The Amazing Race”

28 Jan

RIT/NTID alumnus Luke Adams and his mother, Margie O’Donnell, will be featured a record third time on the popular CBS reality show “The Amazing Race” when the 24th season kicks off on Feb. 23, the network confirmed today.

Adams, who received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2008, became the first deaf contestant on the show when he and his mother raced around the world in season 14, which aired in 2009. The show features teams that are given clues that take them around the world, often to exotic locations. The teams are confronted with physical and mental tasks to complete to receive additional clues. The last team to check in each week is usually eliminated. The first-place team shares a $1 million prize.

In season 14, Adams slid down a hill in the Alps with a 50-pound wheel of cheese, ran in his underwear in sub-freezing temperatures in Russia, got bitten by a bird in China and carried a pig on a pole in Hawaii. He and his mother made the finals that season and came in third place, winning $10,000.

They were brought back to appear on the 18th season of “The Amazing Race” featuring previous contestants who had “unfinished business.” They finished in eighth place.

CBS said the 11 teams for this all-star season were “some of the most memorable duos.” If they don’t get eliminated, teams will travel through four continents and nine countries, spanning more than 35,000 miles. The race will take them on a mission high above the city in Guangzhou, China, rappelling down the roaring rapids of the Kiansom Waterfall in Malaysia, fighting with Gladiators in Rome, and fueling up vehicles in Sri Lanka.

No teams have ever appeared on the show more than twice. Adams and O’Donnell are among three that will be in the race for a third time.

“It was a huge surprise. We did not see it coming,” Adams said. “We got the call out of the blue last July. They were like, “Hey, do you want to do the race again?”

Adams works as an advancement associate at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia. His mother, a registered nurse, lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Adams worked at NTID in the summer of 2009 as a co-director of Orientation Assistants for NTID’s Summer Vestibule Program, which welcomes incoming students to RIT. While here, Adams entertained audiences by talking about his experiences on the show. O’Donnell also visited Rochester and spoke to parents here about her experience raising a deaf child and sending him off to college.

Adams was named Deaf Person of the Year in 2009 by Deaf Life magazine and appeared on its cover.

On his first appearance on the show, Adams said he hoped to set an example that deaf people can do anything. “A lot of deaf people think you can’t go on TV, or shouldn’t apply to different things,” he said. “I want to give deaf people hope. That’s what I want to do.”

RIT/NTID Alumna Amber Zion to sign National Anthem for Super Bowl XLVIII

28 Jan

Amber Zion

Amber Zion

The hundred million television fans tuning in to watch Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 may see two women with roots in Rochester performing the National Anthem.

Opera star Renee Fleming, a graduate of Eastman School of Music, will sing the anthem as Amber Zion, an actress who graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, will sign the anthem using American Sign Language.

“I was told that her voice is beautiful and graceful, which is perfect because it will match my American Sign Language translation,” said Zion, who is deaf. “I’m really looking forward to it!”

Zion was chosen for the event after she submitted an audition video to the National Association of the Deaf last fall. NAD has worked with the Super Bowl since 2008, when a commercial entirely in sign language was televised during the pregame show.

“The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched events of the year,” said NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum. “Integrating American Sign Language into the performance of the National Anthem during the pregame not only raises awareness of ASL, it also helps to ensure that this iconic event is inclusive for all Americans.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Zion graduated from RIT/NTID in 2004 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She also earned a certificate in 2003 in Script Emphasis in Performing Arts and appeared in many productions in NTID’s Robert F. Panara Theatre and in The Tempest off Broadway at the Interborough Repertory Theatre in New York City.

She and her husband, Ari Zion, a 2004 graduate of RIT/NTID with a degree in Applied Arts and Sciences, live in Los Angeles. She has appeared in several films. She was featured on a Kay Jewelers Christmas commercial for several years and had a starring role on CBS’s CSI:NY episode, Silent Night.

Zion performed the National Anthem when she was in high school, when the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a playoff game. “That was the most amazing experience,” she said. “I can only imagine the experience I will have at the Super Bowl this year. I’m honored to be a part of it, and I can’t wait to share the beauty of ASL with the world.

RIT/NTID Students Accepted Into High-Tech Business Accelerator

24 Jan

A team of students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has received $25,000 and acceptance into Leap Motion’s LEAP AXLR8R in San Francisco to help further their work on a program that will help deaf and hearing people communicate more easily.

The team, MotionSavvy, is developing applications for the Leap Motion 3-D sensor, which was released in July. Leap Motion recognizes the slightest hand movements. The students are developing an application that will translate a hand shape into a text letter of the alphabet in sign language.

With more work, the team plans to develop applications that will enable the device to translate sign language into words and sentences. The device could be used in retail settings or government agencies where brief personal interaction is needed.

Arvind Gupta, founder and director of the LEAP AXLR8R, said admission to the program was “extremely selective” and he was impressed by MotionSavvy’s pitch via Skype.

“I’m very excited about MotionSavvy and everything they’re trying to do,” Gupta said. “It’s people helping themselves and helping others through technology.”

Motion Savvy is one of 10 teams accepted in the program. Each team is using Leap Motion technology to develop a product or business and can benefit through technical support to help establish their business.

“We have a partnership with the Leap Motion company, giving us access to engineers that will help the team really push the development and design of what the students are doing,” Gupta said. “The teams will go and find out what its core audience is and how to match it to what the needs are.”

The classes begin Feb. 3 and conclude the first week of May, when teams will show their business products and concepts to potential investors.

“Their demonstration prototype was very impressive. I think they have the potential to make meaningful changes to the lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing people,” Gupta said. “Simple communication can be extremely difficult for them. This could enable people to have a new way of communicating with the world.”

The students, Ryan Hait-Campbell, a new media design major from Seattle; Alex Opalka, a computer engineering technology major from Glastonbury, Conn.; Wade Kellard, a mechanical engineering technology major from Cincinnati; and Jordan Stemper, an industrial design major from Waukesha, Wis., were accepted in and completed RIT’s Summer Start-Up course for new businesses at RIT’s Saunders College of Business and the Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“We’re trying to break communication barriers,” said Hait-Campbell. “That’s why I think it’s going to succeed, because a lot of people are behind it, and we’re all deaf.” He grew up with painful memories of being one of a few deaf students in his large school and not being able to fully communicate with others. “I don’t want others having to experience that.”

The students were able to work with the Leap Motion technology even before it was made public, thanks to a pre-release device secured for them by Professor Stephen Jacobs, associate director of RIT’s Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interactivity and Creativity who had connections in the company. MAGIC was the first direct funder of the team’s development efforts and also helped them get additional support from the National Science Foundation over the summer.

In the months that followed, the students have approached government agencies, area businesses and hospitals to determine whether there is interest in their product.

The team has also been out asking potential donors to invest in MotionSavvy and will apply for grants. The money will be used to expand the product for the next five years to accomplish some of the team’s goals, including expanding a sign language database with up to 20,000 signs.

“We’ll need money for research and development of the product and determining how we can improve the existing services and break into new markets,” Opalka said.

RIT/NTID student competing in international swim tournament

17 Jan

Scott Farrell, a Manufacturing Engineering Technology major from North Tonawanda, N.Y., is one of 100 swimmers competing in the Deaf International Swimming Championships at RIT. More.