(From left) SIUE I-Corps team members Dan Harres, Jenna Gorlewicz and Corrine Mueller.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps for Learning team received the Top Team Recognition Award in late February at the final meeting of the 24 teams in California.
The team is comprised of Jenna Gorlewicz, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering in the SIUE School of Engineering; team mentor Dan Harres and Corrine Mueller, graduate assistant in the SIUE Small Business Development Center (SBDC). A retiree from Boeing where he was a technical fellow, Harres owns Bitstream Technologies, a start-up company focused on low-cost educational robotics.
The project is titled “Real-Time Graphical Presentation for Visually Impaired STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) Students.” The project aims to assess the commercial viability, market potential and technological impact of touchscreen-based educational curriculum that will enable real-time graphical information presentation through visual, auditory and vibratory feedback.
The proposed innovation leverages commercially available touchscreens and custom software created in the form of Android applications to translate visual content displayed on-screen into content that can be felt through vibrations and heard through sound. These real-time, hands-on learning experiences are particularly necessary for the 656,000 school-aged individuals with blindness or visual impairments.
“There exists a dire need for a portable, refreshable real-time display of graphical information via nonvisual feedback that can be easily integrated within a classroom setting,” Gorlewicz said. “Such a platform is paramount in affording visually impaired individuals equal opportunities to excel in STEM classrooms and STEM professions. It will equip visually impaired students with new technologies to enhance their independence and participation both in and out of the classroom.
“The infrastructure and software in this work will promote a transformed classroom in which visually impaired students independently interact with their sighted peers and primary classroom teacher, in real-time via touchscreens.”
About I-Corps for Learning
The primary goal of National Science Foundation I-Corps for Learning (Innovation Corps for Learning) is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research.
The approach to entrepreneurship uses techniques developed to validate each commercial opportunity in a recognized, effective way: customer and business model development
The vehicle for commercialization activities will most often be start-ups founded by the I-Corps participants; successful I-Corps projects will be prepared for business formation
The I-Corps programs feed the NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs
NSF will work with the private sector to bring additional resources to the table (in the form of partnerships and finance), when warranted
I-Corps Teams are composed of three main members: the principal investigator (Gorlewicz), the entrepreneurial lead (Mueller) and the mentor (Harres). Gorlewicz serves as SIUE’s technical lead and project manager. Mueller is the entrepreneurial lead, typically a postdoctoral researcher or graduate student, possessing relevant technical knowledge and a deep commitment to investigating the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation. As the entrepreneurial lead, Mueller supports the transition of the technology should the project demonstrate a level of readiness appropriate to leave the academic institution. The mentor brings entrepreneurial experience and serves as the principal guide in determining the technology disposition. All three members of the team participate fully in the I-Corps Curriculum.