This article was excerpted from the 22 August IEEE SIGHT blog.
The IEEE (SIGHT) project “Enhancing the Speak Up! Suite of Voice Powered Games” received two awards from Carnegie Mellon. SIGHT helps sponsor and promote volunteer projects by connecting IEEE members with underserved communities and local organizations so they can work together to help those in need. The Speak Up! suite of voice-powered games helps students strengthen their vocal cords.
The university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute award recognizes the best multiyear project that has “positive impacts on individuals’ quality of life and health.” The Dietrich Humanities Prize is awarded to projects that “best exemplify the humanities as they are understood at Carnegie Mellon.”
Three IEEE members created the games. Amal Nanavati is a student at the university. Aaron Steinfield is an associate research professor at its Robotics Institute. M. Bernardine Dias, who was an associate research professor at the institute, is now CEO of Diyunu, a company that helps develop technology for underserved communities.
INSPIRATION FOR THE PROJECT
Nanavati, the project’s lead, says inspiration for the games stemmed from his time as a research intern for TechBridgeWorld, a Carnegie Mellon organization “dedicated to improving people’s lives by enhancing and sharing advances in technology to promote sustainable development through the globe.” He and other interns traveled to Bengaluru, India, to develop low-cost, accessible, and sustainable educational technologies for the Mathru Centre for the Deaf and Differently Abled. While there, they assessed the needs of the teachers and learned the instructors had trouble engaging with students during speech class because of the time required.
The teachers had many requests for Nanavati and his team. That included designing a game that could notify the students whether they were pronouncing words correctly. He designed a game that let teachers choose words for the student to say, and then the teacher would tell the computer how to pronounce it correctly.
Nanavati’s advice for other SIGHT groups includes providing the community with a tangible and sustainable solution to its problem. His group, for example, trained teachers, students, and school administrators how to use the games. They wrote simple documentation explaining the games. And they left behind multiple copies of the games with community members.