University of Vermont

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ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES

E.A.S.Y. LLC featured in BFP

EASY Sketch PadAn article entitled, “Innovation spawned at UVM bringing new ways of learning to the Blind” by Dan D’Ambrosio , staff writer for The Burlington Free Press (BFP), features a new endeavor called, Engineering to Assist and Support You (E.A.S.Y.), LLC created at UVM by three researchers: Joshua Coffee (2011 BS graduate in our ME Program) together with faculty members Michael Coleman and Michael Rosen from the School of Engineering (SoE).  Created last year using UVM’s technology commercialization program together with the Vermont Center for Emerging Technology, E. A. S. Y. has received $200,000 from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a low-interest loan from the UVM Ventures Innovation Fund, and approximately $165,000 from the National Institute of Health (NIH).  Also featured in the article is Marti Woodman who teaches accounting at UVM and who has been blind for ten years. 

Previous users of commercially available sketch pads draw with a stylus on a special thin plastic sheet that leaves a raised line that can be felt with the finger tips, like Braille. Coffee, Coleman and Rosen designed and built a thermal eraser to add the option of erasing these raised lines, allowing repeated sketching and erasing and eliminating slipping and wrinkling.

The ideas for making improvements to the tactile sketch pad grew out of an NFB-funded Student Experience in Engineering Design (SEED) project in the School of Engineering at UVM in 2009. Lab Coordinator, Floyd Vilmont, was instrumental in the design and fabrication of the improved device. Other members of the SEED team were Andrew Haas, a 2009 mechanical engineering graduate; Jacob Flanagan, a 2009 electrical engineering graduate; Al Maneki, a blind mathematician who served as user/technical advisor; and Jean Haverstick, a learning specialist from the UVM ACCESS Program.  Substancial contributions were also made by students Katie Accomondo, Kristen Funabashi, Will Banks and Rebecca Risko (in AY 09-10) and by Josh Coffee, Keegan Brown and Akie Hashimoto (in AY 10-11).  The company and its products were spawned by THREE years of SEED projects in Academic Years 08-09, 09-10, and 10-11.

"There is a critical need for better graphical visualization capabilities and devices for the blind in education and professional practice of mathematics, mechanical design and other fields," says Michael Coleman. "Our collaboration with the NFB has proven to be mutually beneficial and rewarding."

To read the BFP article visit: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120830/BUSINESS08/308300003/In

To view videos of the tactile graphics printer working visit:
http://youtu.be/Nsl9wM2Sz0g
http://youtu.be/GImUGdneouQ

For more information contact:

Michael Rosen at mrosen@cems.uvmedu or Michael Coleman at mcoleman@cems.uvm.edu.