Rubina Quadri is helping children learn the art of communication. The Early Childhood Studies (ECS) ’12 graduate received a $27,000 Ryerson Social Enterprise Fellowship Federal Development Grant to develop a prototype of Talking Buttons, a reprogrammable touchpad to help autistic children communicate. Like fellow ECS graduate Sherene Ng, Quadri’s internship and work as a lab technician and research assistant in the EDGE Lab got her acquainted with adaptive design. Quadri started to learn about Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices and how to enhance its capabilities. AAC are communication methods to help support or replace speech and writing for those with impairments. Read more at: “Talking Buttons helps kids vocalize needs”
Archive for the ‘Lab News’ Category
Sherene Ng, visiting scientist in the EDGE Lab, was featured this week at the event celebrating the Ashoka Changemaker U (Ashoka Canada) designation for Ryerson, “Ryerson’s record of innovation and social entrepreneurship”.
Ryerson has earned the prestigious Ashoka Changemaker U designation, joining just 23 other universities around the world to hold the title including Duke University, Brown University, Boston College and Cornell University. The designation recognizes Ryerson’s record of innovation and social entrepreneurship. Celebrating the announcement this week at Ryerson are, from left, Wendy Cukier, vice-president, research and innovation, Vicki Saunders, advisor to the VPRI, student entrepreneurs Shane Feldman, Che Kothari and Sherene Ng, and Sheldon Levy, president. Photo credit: Clifton Li.
In March 2013, Sherene Ng, a recent graduate of the Early Childhood Studies program (Fall 2012), received a $54K FedDev Science and Engineering in Business Fellowship to start a business to commercialize a prototype that began as an idea during her 4th year internship. She was placed at the Experiential Design and Gaming Environments (EDGE) Lab, where she learned about adaptive design. Adaptive design is a process for creating custom adaptations to meet the specific needs of a user.
With support from Dr. Jason Nolan, Assistant Professor, ECS and Director of the EDGE Lab and Rubina Quadri, a part-time undergraduate (ECS) and her field educator, she worked on creating an assistive device for people with low vision. Vlad Cazan, a Lab Technician at the EDGE Lab, helped her with the electronics for the prototype. The device is a wearable shoe sensor that vibrates to alert users when objects are in their walking path. The goal is to minimize tripping hazards and falls for people who may not be able to detect the objects on their own.
Moving forward, Sherene and Rubina will work closely to start up a business to commercialize adaptive design with the shoe sensor. Although Sherene never imagined that she would be an entrepreneur after graduating from the ECS program, she is grateful for the skills and knowledge she gained during her 4 years at Ryerson, which have enabled her to understand and identify needs for people with disabilities.
Ryerson Today has profiled the Lab director.
Early Childhood Studies professor Jason Nolan is pioneering a new set of tools and practices that modify physical and sensory environments so that children with physical and cognitive disabilities can participate barrier-free in play, learning, family life and the community.
Often, children with disabilities do not receive sufficient support for their basic needs. Early Childhood Studies professor Jason Nolan, who is also director of Ryerson’s Experiential Design and Gaming Environments (EDGE) lab, believes the field of adaptive design (AD) holds great promise for helping such children thrive. AD, Nolan explains, “is rooted in the belief that we need specific tools and techniques to modify physical environments cheaply and easily, so that children with disabilities can participate in barrier-free play, learning, family life and the community.”
Nolan is focusing his research on tools that increase children’s autonomy. One of Nolan’s main efforts has involved using cardboard and other easily accessible materials to engineer custom adaptations, therapeutic seats, play tables and computer kiosks. Recently, he has also extended AD into soft-circuitry and wearable computing such as garments that can allow non-verbal children to speak. His work is supported by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation; the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation; the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and the Graphics, Animation and New Media (GRAND) Network of Centre of Excellence.
“I don’t take a ‘medical’ or disease model of disability,” says Nolan. “Instead, I work directly with children to create new designs that extend their ability to interact with and engage the world around them and, in some cases, to acquire the skills to help others.” Nolan’s approach departs from ‘universal’ design by focusing, instead, on the child’s ‘expertise’ about her or his own condition, which he refers to as “user-initiated” design.
Nolan is also active in spreading AD-related knowledge and best practices among fellow scholars and practitioners. He is a member of the advisory boards of the Adaptive Design Association and the GimpGirl Community. Nolan is autistic and is setting up the Toronto chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) at Ryerson.
Rubina Quadri, a 4th year part-time student in the Early Childhood Studies program, was one of the recipients of the Ryerson General Scholarship, an award for academic achievement and contribution to the School of Early Childhood Studies. (This is embarrassing but Jason made me do it.)
EDGE Lab Alumnus Alison Gaston (MA Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University 2011) has just been appointed full time professor in ECE at Sheridan College | Institute for Advanced Learning and Technology starting in August. When she’s gotten comfortable with her new digs we hope she will be help us to build new connections with Sheridan, collaborating on both Play and Adaptive Design research projects.
Noah Kenneally, a 4th year full-time student in the Early Childhood Education program, was one of the recipients of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scholars Program, an initiative of the Office of the Vice President of Research and Innovations. For three months, Noah coordinated his own research project, fitting within existing research being done by ECE Faculty Professor Jason Nolan and Alumni Alison Gaston.
Community Living Toronto Early Childhood Services came to the Studio to learn Adaptive Design techniques and provided professional feedback to the workshop curriculum design. Nancy Hendy, Manager of Early Childhood Services is pictured here with Noah, learning how to make a rocker seat.
His project, entitled “Researching Skills Development in Adaptive Design and the Creation of Objects for Children with Disabilities”, involved inquiry into how to best support development of the skills of Adaptive Design. Adaptive Design is a philosophy of inclusion and a suite of skills and techniques used in the creation of “assistive devices” – objects that respond to specific needs and that improve the lives of people (primarily children) with disabilities, allowing them to be more autonomous and independent.
Painting an adaptive design corner seat, or jig. The Studio Interns developed a fruit theme for the seats built last summer – including a pineapple, a kiwi, and a watermelon.
By researching various curricula of experiential learning and hands-on education, Noah was able to explore how combining theoretical and practical knowledge work together to effectively construct meaningful and personal knowledge, skills and learning opportunities.
A fully functioning test cardboard computer keyboard. The different modules test different aspects of the design, but can all be connected to a computer to provide adapted word processing capabilities.
Noah spoke about his project and his URO experience to assembled guests and fellow undergraduate researchers at Celebrating Research Excellence, the URO Scholars Celebration event on October 6th, 2011.