Student Affairs

Previously Funded Projects

To view assistive technology faculty-student project proposals that were selected for funding in previous years, select any of the project titles below. The 2013-2014 proposal deadline is June 7, 2013. You may submit the proposal form online, by email or on-campus mail.

App-Based Integrated Feedback Approach for Assisting Student Participation (2012-2013)

The goal of this project is to increase access to lecture and lab participation opportunities for students who may find traditional approaches challenging, including hearing impaired students and students with social phobias.

As the home of the National Center on Deafness, the campus has attracted significant numbers of hearing-impaired students. For these students to ask questions in class, they must first raise their hand, be called on, sign their question, have the question stated out load by a translator, wait for the instructor to give the answer, have the response signed back, then potentially ask a follow-up. This introduces a delay in the course progress that decreases students' inclination to participate in class and to ask questions. Additionally, due to field specific terminology used in certain courses, the translation of questions can result in miscommunication.

Another group of students who would benefit from this system are students with social phobias, who have an unreasonable fear of participating in classroom discussions, to such an extent that they may experience extreme distress or panic attacks. Generally triggered by a fear of humiliation and judgment by others, students with social phobias avoid classroom participation or stop attendance all together to escape the associated anxiety. This is especially harmful for students if course participation is a factor in their course grade. With this project, we aim to level the playing field for all students, and hence improve course participation.

We plan to use mobile phones, a predominant technology among our student body, to continuously obtain personalized data about the understanding of specific course topics, questions, comments, and environmental factors in the classroom. We hope to use this data to tailor the immediate course flow, but also to inform the courses in the long term. The corpus of data produced from the implementation of this software system can be used to extract contributing factors to student participation and student understanding of course topics, using data mining and statistical analysis techniques.

The well-known technology of the clickers allowed students to give limited feedback during lecture. However, the use of clickers can easily be replaced with a cell phone app; where during the class period, students are asked to consider review problems, and whose responses are used to modify the course flow.

In this project, we aim to go a step further. We hope to not only examine the understanding of concepts by the general student population as a whole, but also the understanding of concepts by certain groups of students in the class. For example, a topic presentation that may be understood differently by the hearing-impaired can be determined, and a more inclusive approach can be considered by the course instructor.

With this project we aim to develop a log-in based smart phone app that students can elect to use during class time. To pose questions using the system, students type and submit their questions or comments, or they select from pre-set options, such as "I'm confused" or "I can't see the board." Then once the questions are projected, other students can "support" questions, in an analogous way to Facebook's "likes." In this way, instructors can make more informed decisions about whether to move on or to reexamine a course topic, at any point in the course progress. Student information will not be made apparent to the rest of the class, hence eliminating the fear of scrutiny by strangers that students with social phobias experience.

The project work will involve the implementation of smart phone apps, a web interface, and an instructor presentation interface. Also, the project will include the development of an infrastructure for non-specialists to mine the data collected by the software system. Specific attention will be paid during the software and system design to achieve accessibility for all system users, with such features as alternative text displays of images and graphics.

Getting Around Campus When You Cannot See the Signs (2011-2012)

Navigating the campus of a large university can be a challenge for many students. Navigation is even more difficult for students who are blind or visually impaired, since they cannot read signage for streets and buildings, or visually locate important focal points on campus. GPS technology, when combined with map data bases containing information about streets, pathways, and points of Interest can provide this missing information. For this reason, research into implementation of GPS technology for the visually impaired and blind student on the CSUN campus will be highly beneficial both to the students and to the University. Implementing a way-finding system that can address future universal design requirements will assist the university in meeting federal regulatory laws for accessibility, and it will assist the students in finding their way around campus.

The purpose of this project will be to explore and describe the ways in which GPS technology can assist persons who are blind or visually impaired in navigation and successful destination management on the CSUN campus. The proposal examines use of GPS technology combined with narrative descriptions to inform users of the important features of each point of interest, (POI), and to orient the student to the campus real time, (as they are traveling on campus).

Four phases are envisioned in this project. In phase one, student researchers will geocode key points of interest on the CSUN campus using the BrailleNote Apex with the Sendero GPS program. A POI that has been geocoded, for example, might include the "Bookstore North Entrance Near Sierra Walk." The student researchers will then attach descriptive information in audio form to those points in order to explain the details of the bookstore complex, and to orient students to the campus in the vicinity of the point that was marked. For example: "As you approach the entrance to the bookstore complex, the Tseng College is on your left. Automatic doors are directly ahead of you. As you enter through these doors, the bookstore will be slightly to your left..." (See Appendix A).

During phase two of the project, the primary investigators will use three BrailleNote units and one BrailleSense unit. Each participant will be trained in use of the device generally, focusing specifically on use of the Sendero GPS program.

In phase three, the participants will use the GPS navigation devices as they follow various routes and apply several navigation methods as outlined by the student researchers. Each researcher will follow and observe the participant. Notes will be taken during the observation regarding ease of use of the program, and how the subject interacts with the information provided by the program to navigate the campus and locate destinations. Any noticeable difficulties will be noted but the researchers will not interfere.

Finally, phase four will include use of interviews and an on site questionnaire. Interviewers will employ a biographical narrative approach to allow the participants to share their accomplishment of finding their way on their own, or perhaps any struggles or glitches they may have encountered while using audio point descriptions or GPS navigation. The questionnaire will focus on the descriptive features that helped with destination management, campus orientation, and any ideas that the participants have for improvements in any area of the project.

A Non-Invasive Brain-Computer Interface for Autonomous Wheelchair Mobility in a Dynamically Changing Environment (2010-2011)

An emerging area of research which holds some promise for practical applications that can benefit persons with disabilities is brain-computer interface (BCI). Basically researchers are trying to harness the power of brainwaves to allow persons with disabilities to perform a variety of functions, simply by thinking about the desired result. In this project, a student with a disability who is a wheelchair user will be working with another student and a faculty member to develop a brain-computer interface that will allow a wheelchair user to control the movement of a wheelchair by thinking about the direction in which it should move. These researchers from California State University, Northridge will work in collaboration with researchers from the UCLA Neurology Department at Olive View Medical Center.

There are three phases envisioned in this project. First, a headset to be used by a wheelchair user will be developed. The two student researchers will be extremely active in this phase as they will be testing and gathering waveforms generated by users of the headset in order to create a database of brain waveforms. This library of unique signatures should provide the basis for creating a library of commands needed to power the wheelchair.

The second phase of the project will be centered on retrofitting a wheelchair in order to have the capabilities to gather the necessary data. The first and second phase of the project will be coordinated closely. Again, the student researchers will be extensively involved in the basic research for this phase.

The third phase of the project will integrate the BCI system with the sensor-driven software algorithm in order to develop an intelligent wheelchair which will be assessed by a wheelchair assessor from the California Department of Rehabilitation. The intent in this phase is to develop a prototype which can be assessed for merits and significance in the field of assistive technology.