UVM Engineers Recognized by National Braille Press
- By Dawn Marie Densmore
E.A.S.Y. LLC (Engineering to Assist and Support You) is a year-old start-up spun off from the UVM School of Engineering. The company was recognized this month by the National Braille Press, receiving Honorable Mention and $5,000 in the annual Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation competition for their development of tactile graphics products for the blind. E.A.S.Y. LLC was founded and is owned and run by SoE faculty Michael Coleman and Michael Rosen with Joshua Coffee who graduated with an engineering degree from UVM in 2011. According to the NBP web site, “The Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation has attracted innovators from all over the world in the fields of education, technology, engineering, tactile graphics, and general literacy. This is the only prize to foster and reward innovation and offers a direct and compelling incentive for researchers, teachers and the like to support literacy efforts for blind people.”
"We are pleased and honored by this national recognition. For us, this award represents validation of our engineering design efforts and confirmation of our expectation that our products can have a substantial effect in the education and working lives of blind people”, says Mike Rosen, E.A.S.Y.’s President.
“This national recognition is truly well deserved,” says Bernard “Chip” Cole, Interim Dean of the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.
E.A.S.Y. LLC has had continuous guidance and support from UVM’s Office of Technology Commercialization, as well as the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, the on-campus UVM-affiliated incubation site. To date, financial support has come in the form of an equity purchase by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), a low-interest loan from the UVM Ventures Innovation Fund, and a Phase-1 small business grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Prior to the formation of the company, the focus on tactile graphics emerged in Academic Years 08-09, 09-10, and 10-11 in SEED (Senior Experience in Engineering Design), the Mechanical/Electrical Engineering capstone course. NFB provided program sponsorship and market-based guidance in every one of those years. Then and now, several blind individuals – including Marc Maurer, Mark Riccobono and Al Maneki of the NFB, and UVM business School Lecturer Marti Woodman – have played pivotal roles. In addition, participation by Rosen, Coleman, Coffee and past SEED students at the annual NFB conventions and various outreach activities has provided invaluable feedback from many of the blind and low-vision people.
E.A.S.Y. LLC is developing and integrating three novel tactile graphics products (with patents pending for all of them). All make use of the standard means of scribing a raised line with a stylus on a sheet of plastic film supported by a resilient rubber pad. The first product is the inTACT™ Eraser, a hand-held spot iron that blind users can apply to erase and edit their tactile sketches. The second is the inTACT Digital Raised-line Drawing Tablet that will store and transmit digital graphics files, allowing communication of tactile drawings with blind and sighted people. And the third is the inTACT Raised-line Printer. All have been prototyped and demonstrated publically. The Eraser came to market this month.
For more information on The Touch of Genius Award, visit:
To read an August BFP article visit:
To view a video describing and demonstrating the E.A.S.Y. LLC products, visit: