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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 Student Research Fair touts cutting-edge work of undergraduate, graduate students

20 Apr

African-American female with short hair and glasses wearing a grey shirt standing in front of a poster.

Joan Bempong, a fifth-year BS/MS computer engineering student from Irving, Texas, believes that deaf women who use American Sign Language exhibit disparities in health literacy when compared to hearing women. She says limited health literacy may be caused by inaccessibility of mainstream information and healthcare services, as well as family communication difficulties. As a result, ineffective dissemination of health information also may have a significant impact upon deaf women’s mental and physical health. She hopes that her research will help develop a comprehensive framework for understanding how such health disparities occur and what steps can be taken to improve quality of life.

Abraham Glasser, a third-year computer science student from Rochester, N.Y., and Emily Lederman, a second-year computer science student from Morgantown, W.V., are using mathematical equations to determine worst-case scenarios for monitoring electric power networks. They hope one day their research will save power companies and consumers a lot of money.

On April 13, Bempong, Glasser and Lederman joined 61 other deaf and hard-of-hearing student researchers at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s Student Research Fair in Rosica Hall. The event gives undergraduate and graduate students, in partnership with faculty mentors, the opportunity to present posters or give demonstrations on topics related to health science, communication studies, access technology and environmental research, among others.

Todd Pagano, associate dean for teaching and scholarship excellence and founding director of NTID’s Laboratory Science Technology program, is among the coordinators of the research fair. Pagano said the research fair is unique because of the training that is offered to students ahead of time on writing and editing abstracts, designing research posters and presenting research to audiences.

“The projects we’re seeing are very sophisticated and diverse with a good mix of high-level science, math, healthcare and access technology research,” said Pagano. “We send many of our students to professional conferences to present their work, but the pinnacle of the experience for students often is having their research published. And a lot of what is seen here at the research fair has already been published.”

Musab Al-Smadi, a fourth-year software engineering student from Jordan, also presented his research. He is working on an inclusive mobile app using Near Field Communication that will enable deaf and hard-of-hearing museumgoers to fully explore their surroundings without facing barriers having to do with obtaining information about exhibits. For example, according to Al-Smadi, many museums offer visitors paper transcripts with exhibit descriptions. However, using transcripts can be inconvenient for patrons with varying levels of vision ability, or frustrating for those for whom English is a second language. The new app can be used on Android and iOS platforms and includes a keypad where users can type in the ID number of the exhibit to get the information or use their devices to hover over QR codes.

“Being able to work with faculty on relevant research has been a very positive experience,” said Al-Smadi. “We’re taking concepts that we’ve learned in the classroom and developing them even further for applications like this.”

Heather Smith, director of the NTID Motion Lab and senior lecturer in the 3D graphics technology program, creates and applies innovative projects using motion-capture technologies for product development, research and scholarship. She is working with a team of students to use motion capture to build an interactive, visual storytelling app with 360-degree views, animation, bilingual literacy and gaming. The app, Deaf Pioneer, teaches history dating back to the late 1800s and allows users to fully immerse themselves in the story.

“I am very fortunate to be a faculty member who works closely with deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students on their research projects,” said Smith. “I feel honored being part of their research journey as I share my wealth of knowledge and fuel them to fly higher and discover what is in store for them in the future. I try to become their mentor and their ally.”

Bempong emphasized the quality of her research experience. “It has been a phenomenal experience. Given that I am a computer engineering student graduating with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, this research was fascinating in that it was completely different from my field of study. Because of the mentorship of Professor Deirdre Schlehofer, I was able to gain qualitative research skills, as well as more awareness about my own community and recognize the need to improve health literacy among us.”

The Student Research Fair is funded by the NTID Office of the President and jointly sponsored by the Associate Dean for Teaching and Scholarship Excellence and the Associate Dean of Research.

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/NTID receives Motorola Solutions Foundation grant

1 Sep

Male teacher wtih light hair and glasses works with student with dark hair and skin on mini drone and mobile phone.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf today announced it has received a grant for $30,000 from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc. Through the grant, RIT/NTID will support a new initiative to encourage students to enroll in NTID’s new mobile application development program.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation awards grants each year to organizations, such as RIT/NTID, which support and advance public safety programs and technology and engineering education initiatives. This year, programs that served underrepresented populations, including females, people with disabilities and veterans were prioritized.

“The generous gift from Motorola will be used to build foundational math, English and basic coding skills to help us prepare students who are interested, but not yet academically qualified for our mobile application development program,” said David Lawrence, instructional/support faculty member in RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department. “With the grant, students will participate in engaging individual and team projects and competitions that require the use of math, reading, writing and coding skills.”

This year, Motorola Solutions Foundation grants will support programs that help more than two million students, teachers, first responders and community members across the United States. Each participant will receive an average of 186 programming hours from its partner non-profit organizations and institutions. Programs will support special populations including: females, underrepresented minorities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, people with disabilities and veterans.

“Motorola Solutions Foundation is proud to support the work of RIT/NTID. As a leading technology company that supports the safety of communities worldwide, we know how important it is to educate tomorrow’s technology professionals as well as enlighten civilians and first responders on today’s safety needs,” said Matt Blakely, executive director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation.

For additional information on the Motorola Solutions Foundation grants program, visit: motorolasolutions.com/foundation, and for more information on RIT/NTID visit the website.

About RIT/NTID

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging technology, fine and applied arts, and for providing unparalleled support services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1965, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the first and largest technological college in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. NTID offers associate degree programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and provides support and access services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who study in the other eight colleges of RIT. NTID also offers a bachelor’s degree program in sign language interpreting and master’s degree programs in health care interpretation and in secondary education for individuals interested in teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students come from all over the United States and around the world to take advantage of the opportunities available to them at RIT/NTID.

About Motorola Solutions Foundation

The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The foundation achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation. The Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially in science, technology, engineering and math. For more information on Motorola Solutions Corporate and Foundation giving, visit our website: www.motorolasolutions.com/foundation.

RIT named a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research

21 Aug

National Security Agency logo on left, U.S. Department of Homeland Security logo on right.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have recognized Rochester Institute of Technology for its work in cybersecurity research and designated the university as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research. With the new certification, RIT students and faculty will have more opportunities to participate in research projects with government agencies, including the NSA and DHS. More.