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BGSU Students Create App for People with Disabilities

Dr. Joseph Chao, an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Computer Science, decided that students needed much more than just a classroom experience when it came to software development and application of fundamentals.

“Students should be working with real clients, not just course assignments,” he said.

With this idea brewing, Chao worked for months to find hands-on experience for computer science graduate students. After proposing plans to Agile Alliance — a nonprofit organization supporting productive, humane and sustainable software practices — he was granted $21,000 to create Agile Software Factory (ASF). The purpose of ASF is to serve community partners by developing software systems that meet their specific needs and by providing ongoing software support.

Dr. Robert Williamson, a former College of Education and Human Development associate professor, came forward with an idea that could revolutionize the world of those living with certain disabilities. Williamson suggested that Chao and his students work on creating a mobile application, or app, that could ultimately become an automated, Web-controlled “cognitive support system” for a person with autism or other cognitive disability.

Williamson has two sons, one with autism and the other with immense brain trauma from a severe car accident. Knowing his sons would continue to struggle with cognitive disabilities, Williamson wanted them to have the opportunity to become independent young men.

Chao enlisted his entire class of 28 students to begin work on what eventually became AgileAssyst, a real-time app that provides people with disabilities a cognitive support system with basic text-to-speech capability and support for verbal communication in real life.

Using this app someone, typically a parent, can create a daily schedule linked to instructional videos demonstrating how to complete a certain task on the user’s schedule.

“This may include finding recipes, completing chores, or choosing clothing to wear,” Chao explained. The content is synchronized with the user’s smartphone device over wireless Internet.

According to Chao, the negotiation process has begun with the University for terms of use and copyright.

“Because this program is the University’s intellectual property, we worked with a University patent committee and lawyer to prepare to send the product off to be patented.”

With the patent now pending for AgileAssyst, Chao reinforced that “what the students have created has commercial value. I want this to be an available resource for people with cognitive disabilities.”

AgileAssyst can currently be downloaded from the Android marketplace with a subscription to a Web portal.

Related Links

Agile Assyst

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