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The Hope Project team comprising of Belgium Campus and PennState students has won first place in the RESNA Student Design Competition. Seeing the hard work and innovative ideas that had been put into the Hope Project, Dr David McNaughton, Professor of Education at PennState and the team’s sponsor encouraged the team to take part in the competition. The team impressed the judges as they were said to have done valuable research and showed great contribution to the development of text to speech devices.

Our students have been awarded a research and development award of up to a total of $4,000. $2,500 of the award funds will be used by the team to support approved expenses to further the project, including additional research and development activities and/or dissemination activities such as travel to visit a research mentor, conference travel and registration.  $1,500 of the award funds will be used to support attendance at the 2016 RESNA conference in Washington, D.C., USA. 

Belgium Campus students are excelling in innovation projects. Projects with international counterparts are done virtually, this shows a very high level of responsibility and a good grasp of team work, an outcome that we strive to showcase at Belgium Campus. Having worked on this project virtually Kristel, Gosiame and Louis will be travelling to the United States on the 7th of July 2016 to meet with other team members from PennState and also to attend the conference.

What was the challenge?

Entries for this competition were meant to advance our understanding of how to incorporate tone of voice into AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) systems. AAC systems can provide powerful tools for communication for persons with complex communication needs. However, people who use AAC have very little expressive control over the tone of voice in their AAC device (Pullin & Hennig, 2015).  Current technology does not easily support the ability of a person using AAC technology to produce a spoken message which sounds happy, sad, inquisitive or angry – to convey the emotional content that is critical to successful communication. There is a need to better understand how tone of voice could be incorporated into AAC systems, and to develop innovative solutions that will provide access to tone of voice for people who use AAC.


Who was eligible to enter?


The competition was open to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, worldwide.  Entries from any student(s) with an interest in the topic from any major for example computer science, computer engineering, linguistics, speech language pathology were encouraged.

Background information about the competition

The RESNA Student Design Competition (SDC) is an annual competition that showcases creative and innovative assistive technology designs that help people with disabilities function more independently. Student teams represent a wide variety of disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and biomedical engineering; computer information science; architecture; and physical and occupational therapy. Entries are judged on originality, quality of design, and usefulness to persons with disabilities. Winners have frequently moved on to become leaders in the field of assistive technology.  Only undergraduate and masters level graduate students currently enrolled in a college or university were eligible to apply.