Every new technology is touted as a way to improve people's lives. If Eyal Sherman is any proof, computers can indeed provide a better quality of life for people with severe disabilities, and Syracuse University's Pulsar Project means to spread some high-tech solutions far and wide.
© 1998 michael j. okoniewski|
Eyal Sherman sports the sophisticated hardware that allows him to interface with a computer. Funding from the NEC Foundation of America will allow nationwide testing of the SU-developed hardware and software designed for people with severe handicaps.
"Thing One and Thing Two, they ran up they ran down," wrote Dr. Seuss in the classic The Cat in the Hat. Since a brainstem stroke rendered Sherman a quadriplegic at age 5, he has not run at all. But TNGs (an abbreviation of "totally neat gadgets" and pronounced "things") 1, 2, and 3computer interface devices designed and built through the Pulsar Projecthave given Sherman, now 17, the ability to communicate, participate more at school, and navigate the World Wide Web.
Other young people with disabilities have also been helped by Pulsar's ongoing research. And now a $40,000 grant from the NEC Foundation of America will make possible the next step: nationwide testing of new computer-driven tools for people with disabilities.
Physics professor Edward Lipson and Dr. David Warner, a research associate at the Northeast Parallel Architectures Center (NPAC) at SU, are the driving force behind Pulsar (http://www.pulsar.org). According to Lipson, Pulsar's mission is to "develop low-cost technology to help people with severe disabilities access information that will make them productive members of the information world."
The grant to Pulsar will enable Lipson and Warner to provide schools and sites in several cities across the United States with free TNG interfaces along with sensors and online training information for their free downloadable "NeatTools" software. TNG devices collect such data as facial gestures from the user; the software processes that data for computer control.
"This alpha test is for systems still under development but not yet ready for full-scale dissemination," says Lipson.
Just as computer technology increases the possibility of fortuitous connections between people and ideas, so the history of this project has been constructed of such connections. Lipson was involved with SU's NPAC in 1995 when he met Warner and learned of Warner's pioneering efforts to enable the severely disabled to act and communicate through computer technology. Lipson knew Sherman and his family through their shared synagogue, where Sherman's father is the rabbi.
Building on Warner's innovative technology, Lipson, Warner, and their team developed a chin joystick, the NeatTools JoyMouse program, and an array of sensors that monitor Sherman's facial expressions. This computer interface has enabled a young man who can neither move his head nor vocalize to use standard computer technology to type text, surf the web, send e-mail, and generate speech."
Eyal and his family have achieved independence using this system," Lipson says. "His mother is able to set up the hardware and software in a matter of minutes."
This groundbreaking work now enjoys support from the NEC Foundation of America, which learned of Pulsar's work through a local NEC representative who attended a 1998 presentation on campus.
NEC Foundation of America was established in 1991 and endowed at $10 million by NEC Corporation and its United States subsidiaries and affiliates. The foundation supports programs with national reach and impact in science technology education, principally at the secondary level, and/or efforts to apply technology to assist people with disabilities."
NEC Foundation of America complements NEC's corporate philosophy of advancing society through technology and enabling individuals to fully develop their human potential," says Sylvia Clark, executive director for NEC Foundation of America. "We see few demonstrations of the meaning of those words that are quite as dramatic as the Pulsar Project.
"Pulsar's work to give the means of expression to its clients-and to many more people in the future-opens possibilities for these individuals and deepens the mutual understanding of everyone involved in the project."
Eight years after its initial gift to help endow the Remembrance Scholarships, the Dr. Scholl Foundation has added another $50,000 to the scholarship fund. The gift came last December, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist bombing that led to the establishment of the memorial scholarships.|
Last year, the Fred L. Emerson Foundation announced a $500,000 challenge grant to the scholarship fund. The University must raise $3 million in order to receive the entire grant.
"Gifts such as this make us optimistic that we will fully meet the Emerson Foundation challenge," says Judith O'Rourke '75, executive assistant to the vice president for undergraduate studies.
To learn more about Remembrance Scholarships, contact Judith O'Rourke, 304 Tolley Administration Building, 315-443-1899, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jon Denison, Senior Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations, 100 Women's Building, 820 Comstock Ave., Syracuse, NY 13244, 315-443-5466,
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