2018 Student Research & Design Competition: Access and AAC

The RERC on AAC is pleased to announce the 2018 Student Research and Design Competition to advance understanding and enhance augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies to improve outcomes for individuals with complex communication needs.

The 2018 Competition is designed to stimulate research and development on the topic of Access and Augmentative and Alternative Communication

The competition deadline is May 4, 2018.

A Research and Design Award (up to a total of $3,000) is available to the first place student project. $1,500 of the award funds can be used by the first place student team to support approved expenses to further the project, including additional research and development activities and/or dissemination activities (e.g., travel to visit a research mentor, conference travel and registration, etc).  $1,500 of the award funds is also available to the first place student project to support attendance at  2018 RESNA conference.

What is the challenge?

patient using access system

Demonstration of AccuPoint, see https://tinyurl.com/y7z566nu

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems can provide powerful tools for communication for persons with complex communication needs. Many persons with physical disabilities, however,  may experience difficulty with traditional keyboards and access methods, and require methods of alternative access.

Persons may need alternative access methods for a variety of reasons, and have very different expectations for assistive technology. A person with a high spinal cord injury may benefit from the use of eye-tracking technology; a child with cerebral palsy may need an expanded keyboard; a person a degenerative neurological condition (e.g., ALS) may need an access system that can be adapted over time; a person with a cognitive disability may need cognitive supports built into the communication system to support effective use.

For the purposes of this competition, we welcome entrants that address any of these access challenges, or other access challenges identified as important to meeting the needs of persons with complex communication needs. This can include new methods of access, as well as issues related to learning how to use an existing access approach. Projects that address how to mount/position a device so it can be effectively used by the person with a disability would also be appropriate for this competition.

Entries for this competition should advance our understanding of engineering solutions to the challenge of access and AAC. Submissions can address research or design issues (please information on submission format below).

Who can enter?

Demonstration of Shuffle Speller

ShuffleSpeller, see https://tinyurl.com/y8cymq7j

The competition is open to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students (including Masters and PhD students), worldwide. We encourage entries from any student(s) with an interest in the topic, and the competition is open to students from any major (e.g., computer science, computer engineering, linguistics, speech language pathology). While students can work with faculty on a project, the submission should clearly reflect the work of the student (or student team). We welcome a wide variety of approaches to this topic, and we welcome submissions that address issues of research, design, and/or development.

What is the submission format?

The submission document should should be a  6-page pdf and address each of the following content areas

  1. Problem Statement/Research Question and Background
  2. Methods/Approach/Solutions Considered
  3. Description of Final Approach and Design
  4. Outcome (Results of any outcomes testing and/or user feedback)
  5. Cost (Cost to produce and expected pricing)
  6. Significance

Please include a title page (this does not count against the 6 -page maximum) with

  1. Project Title:
  2. Lead Author/Contact Name:
  3. Email address:
  4. Additional Authors:
  5. University Affiliation and URL:
  6. Faculty Supervisor(s) Name and Email:

Please also include Acknowledgements and References, these also do not count against the 6 page maximum

The actual proposal for the RERC competition should be emailed as an attachment to David McNaughton at dbm2@psu.edu before May 4, 2018.

Undergraduate students are also encouraged to submit their materials to the RESNA Student Design Competition (see below).

Safe Laser

Demonstration of Safe Laser, see https://tinyurl.com/ybwxufzl

Where can entrants find more information?



Entrants are also strongly encouraged to partner with the family members of persons who use AAC, and persons who use AAC, in order to obtain a better understanding of their perspective on the nature of the challenge and desired features of solutions.


Questions may  be addressed to David McNaughton at RERC.AAC@gmail.com. Responses to general questions will be posted here.

The RERC on AAC Student Research and Design Competition is a collaborative activity with RESNA. 
All entrants are encouraged to also submit their work to the RESNA Student Design competition and the RESNA Student Scientific Paper competition, which has a due date of April 14, 2017. More details at http://www.resna.org/news-events/annual-meeting/annual-meeting-archives/program/student-design-competition.
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