Learning to Build Accessible Software Systems via Zoom
Each semester, I teach EECS 495, a course where students work together to build accessible software systems for individuals with a disability or illness. It’s a process that requires teamwork and deep understanding. During the Covid-19 outbreak (Spring/Summer semester 2020), we were able to successfully move this collaborative effort online and focus the projects themselves on Covid.
In 2018, students in my class developed projects centered around the possibilities presented by Microsoft’s Hololens headset. One project was an augmented reality system to surgeons during operations.
ZDNet noted our activity in this area in the article 11 unexpected ways universities are using the Microsoft HoloLens.
Designing for Our Own
In 2016, my class developed technology to help Brad Ebenhoeh, a 30-year-old sophomore in aerospace engineering, return to school. At age 19, Brad suffered a brain hemorrhage that paralyzed the right side of his body, limited his vision, confined him to a wheelchair and forced him to leave the University for a decade. The College of Engineering published this article on our efforts in this area.
Technology for the Blind
In 2016, my EECS 495 Accessible Software Systems Design class focused on developing assistive technology for India West, a visually impaired 17-year-old. Students listened to West’s experiences and came up with their own solutions to some of her day-to-day difficulties.
Below is a video about this project produced by U-M College of Engineering Communications and Marketing team:
Tactile, Interactive Structures
In 2015, I collaborated with Prof. Sean Ahlquist in the Taubman Colletge of Architecture and Urban Planning on a project where our students created highly customized flexible textile structures that would change state when pressed upon. The pieces were created as sensory tools for children on the autistic spectrum who have issues with sensory processing.
The interactive fabric structures were demonstrated by students at the 2016 South by Southwest show in Austin, TX. These two videos show the booth setup and provide an overview of all projects shown at the display.
Booth setup at SxSW 2016:
Overview of All UM Projects at SxSW2016:
Working with Watson to Address Social Needs
In Fall 2014, my EECS 495 Accessible Software Systems Design class had the opportunity to tap into IBM’s Watson technology to develop applications that address social needs. Watson is IBM’s powerful artificial intelligence system that designed to process language more like a human than a machine, and to interact with people in ways that seem more natural than other systems. IBM partnered with just seven leading CS institutions for this project; here are some early articles about this opportunity:
Engineering for Grace
Beginning in Fall 2013 through Fall 2014, my EECS 495 Accessible Software Systems Design classes focused on developing assistive technologies for a young woman named Grace who has cerebral palsy. The College of Engineering published these articles on our efforts in this area:
May 2014: Computer Science with Soul (includes video)
In addition, the Big 10 Network visited during our December 2013 Final Projects Showcase for the class and made a long and short video, both of which aired in early 2014.
Long version – Graceful Engineering:
Short version – It’s About Context:
Gaming for the Greater Good
In 2012, the College of Engineering published this feature article, which nicely illustrates my approach to project-based engineering education for the greater good.
This video is on the projects my Fall 2012 EECS 495 Accessible Software Systems Design did using Microsoft Kinect technology to develop games with therapeutic value for children with autism.
In 2010, students in my EECS 495 Accessible Software Systems Design class developed assistive technology projects for patients at Mott Children’s Hospital. One project that came out of this class was ASK Messaging, an iPad app intended to allow people with cerebral palsy to communicate via email. The College of Engineering posted the blog post on the project: