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RIT/NTID exhibit sheds light on deaf pioneers through interactive app

1 May

Screen shot of a computer game scene from the Civil War with tents and barrels, fire pit and pitcher w/trees in the background.

A draw for young people or anyone interested in American Sign Language and history, “Deaf Pioneers Adventure App Development” is sure to captivate guests at Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. The exhibit, located in the Student Alumni Union’s Fireside Lounge, takes viewers on an interactive journey alongside Laura Redden Searing, a deaf 19th-century journalist and poet. Through unique storytelling, exhibit creators will present a historically accurate portrayal of the woman who has become an inspiration to deaf people around the country. The single mother was a Civil War correspondent, world traveler and adventurer, and learned four languages and interviewed Abraham Lincoln at the White House using pen and paper.

“Traditionally, stories like these are taught using books, but we wanted to use technology so viewers can read and see the story in American Sign Language. It was exciting to think about what this might look like as an app,” said Chris Kurz, associate professor in the master’s degree program in secondary education of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. “While traditional modes of learning are still valuable, we thought it would be fascinating to tell historically accurate stories of some amazing deaf pioneers using animation and 3D modeling, and virtual reality with 360-degree views. And non-ASL users can also learn about these pioneers in English. This is a new approach in which the user really has a sense of involvement in the story.”

Guests to the exhibit will be able to use tablets or a desktop computer to see Redden Searing in a classroom at the Missouri School for the Deaf in 1855 and also on the battlefield where she often met with Gen. Ulysses Grant during the Civil War. Users can also play a telegram-based game and a drag-and-drop train game where users arrange puzzle pieces to “travel” from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., a route often taken by Redden Searing.

The team—three faculty members and seven students enrolled in different majors, including game design and development, film and animation, and the Master of Science in secondary education major, all from NTID—began working on the project last summer and hope to complete the animated story and 13 games in the app by the end of this summer. Then, development to incorporate other deaf pioneers into the app will begin.

“This has been a truly unique experience for all of the students and faculty members involved,” added Kurz. “We are happy to help different kinds of people learn in different ways. And we think that our exhibit will appeal to many different audiences, including deaf and hearing children, those interested in learning about American Sign Language, techies who like app development and history buffs. There is something for everyone.”

Winners of RIT/NTID’s Next Big Idea announced

27 Apr

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.” 

Ten Years of Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival

21 Apr

RIT President Bill Destler reflects on 10 years of Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. This campus-wide free event showcases the innovative and creative spirit of RIT students, faculty and staff. Since its start in 2008, nearly 270,000 visitors have experienced the breadth and depth of RIT through interactive presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exhibitions and research projects set up throughout campus. Join us at this year’s festival on May 6 on the RIT campus.

Attend an Open House

20 Apr

Our Open Houses are excellent opportunities to get to know RIT through tours and academic meetings. During Open House, you will be able to meet faculty, tour campus and residence halls, learn more about the admissions and financial aid process, and discover why RIT can be a great fit for you. Here is a video from RIT/NTID’s recent Open House. Register for our next Open House on April 28, 2017.

Winners announced in national math competition

20 Apr

Group of four students in matching t-shirts working together on math problem with computer and calculators in front of them.

Winners have been announced in Rochester Institute of Technology’s annual Math Competition for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

The competition, held at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf April 7–9, welcomed 140 deaf and hard-of-hearing middle school students from Alabama; Connecticut; Ohio; California; Georgia; Delaware; Florida; New York; Texas; Indiana; Kansas; Washington, D.C.; Massachusetts; New Jersey; Oklahoma; Oregon; Rhode Island; Minnesota; Colorado; Washington; Tennessee; Pennsylvania; and New Mexico as well as Canada.

They competed in tasks that tested their speed and accuracy, teamwork and math skills.

Individual winners:

  • First ($100): Crystal Salit of Boyds, Md., from Maryland School for the Deaf.
  • Second ($75): Trey Johnson of Kyle, Texas, from Texas School for the Deaf.
  • Third ($50): Luke Wood of Fishers, Ind., from Indiana School for the Deaf.

Team winners:

  • First ($300): Maryland School for the Deaf
  • Second ($200): Texas School for the Deaf
  • Third ($100): Kenneth R. Olson Middle School,

Top Scorer: Crystal Salit of Boyds, Md., from Maryland School for the Deaf.

Most spirited team: E.C. Drury School for the Deaf, Milton, Ontario, Canada.

More information about the contest is available at http://www.ntid.rit.edu/prospective/mathcounts.