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Motorola team stops at Kendall Green on national tour for new smartphone ideas

Image: Kevin Cole, research applications programmer at the Gallaudet Research Institute, works with his team on developing a phone that won’t shake when a picture is taken. (Photo by Matthew Vita)

Kevin Cole, research applications programmer at the Gallaudet Research Institute, works with his team on developing a phone that won’t shake when a picture is taken. (Photo by Matthew Vita)

Image: Daniel Katz-Hernandez (left), '14, of Gaithersburg, Md., who is majoring in digital media, won the Google Award on August 26 for his team's project, called a "Wink Ball," which responds to emotions and facial expressions. (Photo by Matthew Vita)

Daniel Katz-Hernandez (left), '14, of Gaithersburg, Md., who is majoring in digital media, won the Google Award on August 26 for his team's project, called a "Wink Ball," which responds to emotions and facial expressions. (Photo by Matthew Vita)

Gallaudet was one of 16 stops on Motorola's "MAKEwithMOTO" tour across America, an event to meet young, creative designers and present them with the tools they need to innovate using Motorola's latest smartphones to do research and learn what they can do to make their phones more adaptable to fit their needs.

"MAKEwithMOTO is meant to be an authentic outreach to the nation's smartest, most innovative art, engineering, and design students, as well as to the maker and hacker communities," said Paul Eremenko, a Motorola executive and MAKEwithMOTO technical project lead.  To accomplish this, Motorola embarked on a five-month journey across the nation, stopping at 12 universities and four "Maker Faire" events in "Sticky," a Freightliner Sprinter van carrying 3D printers, and "Stuffy," a blue 1973 Volkswagen van carrying smartphones and other fun technology prototyping tools, such as 3D printers (provided by Motorola's partner company, 3D Systems), laser cutters, and soldering stations, said Daniel Makoski, executive designer with Motorola.

Max Kazemzadeh, an associate professor in Gallaudet's Department of Art, Communication, and Theater, who teaches 3D art, animation, robotics, and technology, invited Victor Diaz Barrales, a computer scientist who works for Motorola, to bring his MAKEwithMOTO team to Gallaudet.

During the August 23 to 25 stop on Kendall Green, 25 participants from on and off campus gathered at Washburn Arts, then separated into four teams for a "MAKEaTHON" to develop ideas. On the evening of the first day, the teams shared ideas of what mobile-device, robotic, and software based prototypes they could create in the next 48 hours.  At the end of each MAKEwithMOTO event, teams present their products on both Google Hangout and YouTube so that everyone can see how the products were developed and made. The winning team is encouraged to try to turn its prototype into a real product, and if they raise $15k on a crowd-funding platform like Indiegogo or Kickstarter, Motorola has agreed to match that amount.

Participating from the Gallaudet community were Yiqiao Wang, an adjunct professor of art; Wei Wang, a digital media technician in the Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) Science of Learning Center at Gallaudet; Kevin Cole, research applications programmer at the Gallaudet Research Institute; art students Tracey Milo, Daniel Katz-Hernandez, Ebony Gooden, and Heidi McNulty; and Jenny Stensby, a visiting student from Norway.

"Our participants made awesome prototypes," said Kazemzadeh. Their projects were a vibrating necklace to enhance a deaf person's awareness of environmental sounds (developed by Gooden's team); a visual sign language dictionary where a person can learn the sign for an object simply by touching a Motorola phone to an object (developed by Milo's team); a phone that won't shake when a picture is taken (developed by Cole's team); and a "Wink Ball" that rolls in response to emotions and facial expressions (developed in part by Katz-Hernandez), which was selected as the winning project.

Katz-Hernandez used a robotic toy that changes colors when it moves for the Wink Ball. He said he worked with his teammates to develop software using the Java programming language to allow his facial expressions to control the ball through Bluetooth.  "I'm excited to do this project, which I'll continue working on through this semester with my mentor, Max (Kazemzadeh) for my independent study course," said Katz-Hernandez. "There are many possibilities with this prototype in the future.  For example, paralyzed kids can use this prototype to communicate their needs."

The "Wink Ball" impressed Motorola executive Paul Eremenko. "It was a very impressive integration of computer vision for reading facial expressions into a phone app and a wireless controller," said Eremenko. "Accurate, automated recognition of facial expressions on a mobile platform strikes me as a very clever, largely untapped technology with a lot of potential.  For instance, I can envisage applications to make mobile devices more accessible, use them for non-auditory/hands-free control of various tasks, and even to augment existing speech recognition technology with facial expression recognition. Daniel (Katz-Hernandez) and his team pulled off a very impressive functioning prototype over the course of two days."

"The old model of education has a rigid knowledge of information; however, we know that the real education model is where students find their own gifts, qualities, and uniqueness within themselves," said Makoski.  "I have a goal to see schools fill up with people with that kind of knowledge.  Those students can find their own creative potential and make something new."  He added, "It's great to see deaf and hearing communities collaborate with each other and work together to develop prototypes," He thanked Max Kazemzadeh for making this workshop at Gallaudet happen.  

"We had a tremendously positive experience at Gallaudet," Eremenko said. "The students and others who took part in the MAKEaTHON were a truly talented group, worked very hard, and created some wonderful prototypes and designs. The Gallaudet campus is a beautiful and welcoming setting, and everyone-the faculty, staff, students, absolutely everyone-was just great; super hospitable and super enthusiastic to hack and make with us."  

Kazemzadeh added, "I hope to have the MAKEwithMOTO team come back soon, since it was wonderful to have the teams, the accessibility, and people used technology to empower themselves-which was the key to having a successful MAKEaTHON in the Nation's Capital."  

--By Megan Clancy

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