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Researchers at NTID demonstrate accessible rower at Imagine RIT festival

24 Apr

Male student with beard and glasses writes on a clipboard while working on rowing skull.

As part of Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, researchers at NTID’s Center on Access Technology will demonstrate an accessible rower that enables deaf and hard-of-hearing rowers to follow verbal coxswain instructions during competitions. Festival visitors can sit in a canoe and test their reflex response times by using a game pad to reply to visual cues displayed on a smartphone.       

The idea for the accessible rower came about in 2016, with the addition of a deaf rower to the RIT men’s rowing team roster, with the possibility of other deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes joining the squad. In rowing competitions, rowers are required to follow commands from the coxswain, who determines the speed of the boat.

According to Wendy Dannels, a research faculty member in NTID’s Center on Access Technology and one of the project coordinators, the solution provides a visual display showing transcription and/or illustration of the coxswain’s commands. The application was developed to help the athletes synchronize with the coxswain by using a custom Automatic Speech Recognition engine. The engine is offline so the deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes can utilize the technology without internet connection.

In addition to Dannels, project team members are Steven McClusky, a fourth-year software engineering student from Blue Springs, Mo.; Joseph Stanislow, instructional/support faculty member, NTID Information and Computing Studies; and Brian Trager, associate director of the NTID Center on Access Technology.

Deaf undergrads from across the country to conduct research at RIT/NTID this summer

23 Apr

Light skinned male and female in lab coats, safety goggles and blue gloves work on science experiments.

For eight weeks this summer, Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will be home to the first all-deaf cohort of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), bringing deaf and hard-of-hearing students from across the country together to do research. 

The cohort of three RIT/NTID students, and one student each from the University of California, Berkeley; Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida; Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.; Ohlone College in Freemont, California; Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio and Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon, includes six women and three men, all of whom are deaf or hard-of-hearing. 

“Students were selected in a competitive process on the basis of who showed strong potential for research and fit in well with our current projects,” said Bonnie Jacob, assistant professor in the mathematical modeling program. “The projects are all from science and math, and include graph theory, astrophysics, biochemistry and analytical chemistry this year. There have been other REUs that invite one, two or a few deaf students each year, but we are the first REU to host a full cohort of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.” 

A Research Experience for Undergraduates program generally runs in the summer for eight to 10 weeks. Undergraduate students come from different universities, along with some from the home university, to be immersed in a research experience with guidance from a faculty mentor. 

This particular REU is a three-year award from the NSF, and will run for three summers, with the grant totaling $303,000. Students are paid a stipend, receive housing and some meal support and travel. They also have an opportunity to present their research at a conference. In addition to the research experience, RIT/NTID is adding writing coaching, a research boot camp that involves mathematical and scientific training and professional development sessions tailored specifically to students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. They also will have presentations by invited guests. 

“REUs are exciting programs because faculty mentors and students work side-by-side on original research,” Jacob said. “The opportunity to simultaneously make scientific discoveries while watching the students transform themselves into researchers is awesome. A full-time research experience over the summer often is a critical part of an undergraduate student’s preparation to go to graduate school or enter a career in a scientific or mathematical field. We are very excited about our group of students this year: they come from all over the country, have a diverse set of backgrounds, and also have a variety of career goals. They will come together this summer with the common thread of being undergraduate students who are deaf or hard of hearing and are eager to do science and math research. Several students have told me that they’re excited about the program. I know I am!” 

For more on the project, visit the RIT/NTID REU website: https://people.rit.edu/bcjntm/REU.html.

RIT/NTID’s Ping Liu to receive leadership award

5 Apr

Young Asian woman with long dark hair wearing sleeveless black top.

When Ping Liu first arrived at RIT, she couldn’t speak English and didn’t know American Sign Language. Today, she is one of the most successful students in her major and is being recognized with the RIT Outstanding Service Award for International Students.

Liu, 24, is from a small village in northern China where her parents are farmers. Her dream school has been RIT since she was in middle school. An applied computer technology major, Liu hopes to earn her master’s degree in human-centered computing and eventually teach in China and one day work at the United Nations to help deaf people all over the world.

Like many international students, Liu arrived in the United States unaware of the hurdles she would have to overcome and adjustments she would have to make to be successful in the American educational system.

“I had a hard time communicating,” she said. “On the first day of class, I did not think I could stay in the United States for one more day. I felt so lonely and nervous.”

She soon joined RIT/NTID’s Asian Deaf Club as the cultural director and the Deaf International Student Association as the program director, and became an integral part of the college community.

But where Liu really shines is her passionate, enthusiastic promotion of RIT. She created a website to promote RIT among deaf Chinese students. She teaches ASL on the website, fields questions about RIT and applying to RIT, gives advice on taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), including feedback on student writing for the test. 

She also wants to establish a scholarship for Chinese students who are deaf. She is at RIT/NTID on scholarship and wants to give back.

“I want to do something good while I am here,” she said. “RIT has changed my life, and I want to do the same for others.”

The leadership awards and scholarship ceremony dinner takes place 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, in RIT’s University Gallery.

RIT/NTID and Microsoft launch partnership for AI-driven accessibility

5 Apr

Sandra Connelly and interpreter in biology class.

Today, Microsoft announced a partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which has piloted the use of Microsoft Translator language technology to transcribe lectures in real time to help students who are deaf or hard of hearing feel more engaged.

RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology initiated a pilot program that leverages intelligent technology built around Microsoft Translator to transcribe a presenter’s spoken words and display them onscreen as text captions in real time, and in a language of their choice on a personal device. This solution is not meant to replace sign language, but rather expand classroom offerings for deaf and hard-of-hearing students by providing multiple channels of access that can be particularly useful for math, science and technical classes with subject matter that can be difficult to interpret.

To learn more about this program, visit the Microsoft AI Blog or check out the Microsoft Customer Stories case study video.

RIT men’s lacrosse earns top-five ranking in two NCAA Division III preseason polls

26 Jan

RIT men's lacrosse team in white uniforms celebrate their winning goal..

The RIT men’s lacrosse team was picked in the top-five in two preseason polls. The Tigers were selected third in the USILA/Nike Lacrosse Division III Preseason Coaches Poll and fifth in the Nike/U.S. Lacrosse Men’s Preseason Poll. The Tigers, who will celebrate their 50th season in 2018, finished with 20 wins in 2017, advancing to the Division III Championship game for the second time in four years. More.