2017 Student Research & Design Competition: AAC Use in Hospital Settings

Patient communicating with doctor and her mother using AAC

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

The 2017 Competition is designed to stimulate research and development on the topic of AAC Use in Hospital Settings

The competition deadline is May 12, 2017.

A Research and Development 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  2017 RESNA conference.

What is the challenge?

AAC systems can provide powerful tools for communication for persons with complex communication needs. The need for communication is especially important in hospital settings, both for communication about medical needs as well as to interact with family, friends, and medical staff.

Persons may need to use AAC in a hospital setting for a variety of reasons. Some persons may have a temporary condition (e.g., post-surgery) that will result in a temporary need for AAC. Other individuals may have a long term disability (e.g., cerebral palsy, autism) that means there will be a need to support their use of an existing AAC system in a hospital setting.

For the purposes of this competition, we welcome entrants that address any of these challenges, or other challenges identified as important to meeting the needs of persons with complex communication needs in hospital settings.

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

Who can enter?

The competition is open to high school, undergraduate, and graduate 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.

What is the submission format?

We welcome submissions that address issues of research and/or development. The submission document should follow the RESNA guidelines. Additional information is available at http://aac-rerc.psu.edu/wordpressmu/RESNA-SDC/resna-student-design-competition/   The actual proposal for the RERC competition should be emailed to David McNaughton at dbm2@psu.edu . Students are also encouraged (as appropriate)  to submit their materials to the RESNA Student Design Competition(see below).

Where can entrants find more information?

AAC in the Intensive Care Unit

  • Blackstone, S. (2016). Patient provider communication. Presentation at San Jose State University. (PDF)
  • Blackstone, S. & Costello, J. (2011) The role of AAC in effective patient provider communication. (YouTube video)
  • Blackstone, S. & Hurtig, R. (2011). Supporting effective patient-provider communication across healthcare settings. (YouTube video)
  • Finke, E., Light., J., & Kitko, L. A systematic review of the effectiveness of nurse communication with patients with complex communication needs with a focus on the use of augmentative and alternative communication. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17, 2102-2115 (PDF)
  • Garrett, K., Happ, M.B. , Costello, J.,  and Fried-Oken, M. (2007). AAC in the ICU  – summary of book chapter. Augmentative Communication News (PDF)
  • LeBlanc, J. et al (2011). ICU Nurses’ perceptions of SLP and AAC for nonspeaking patients. Poster presented at the American Speech and Hearing Association Conference (PDF)

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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