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Undergraduate Researchers

Manpreet Suri

Manpreet S. Suri, Information Systems

McNair Scholar

“A Wearable Braille-Based Computing Device”

According to the World Health Organization there are 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired. This number includes 39 million who are blind and 246 million who are low vision. Braille is a useful option for the visually impaired and allows them to read and write just as well as those who are able to read and write print. Assistive technologies enable the visually impaired to be productive citizens by facilitating effective communication. The visually impaired need a mobile solution to interact with technology because most computers don’t support Braille. Although Braille keyboards are a wonderful advancement for the visually impaired community, they are too expensive and too large to conveniently use in any mobile context. Currently, the only option is text to speech technology which can be limiting due to interruptions, accuracy, and lack of privacy. The Arduino electronic prototyping platform is a tool that will allow us to build a wearable Braille output device that is cheap, portable, and user-friendly. We will conduct a user study in which we ask participants to speak out the characters that are programmed on the device to assess how long users take to read, how accurate their reading is by calculating error rates, and how small we can build the device and still have it be legible to users. We will also vary the device layout to test user preferences and ease of use.

When did you join the Ronald E. McNair (REM) program?
Manpreet Suri

I was accepted as a McNair Scholar for the 2011-2012 academic year (REM 20).

How did you find out about McNair?

I found out through a friend who was applying.

What have you gained from being a McNair scholar?

I gained many valuable skill sets including: independent study skills, the ability to critique research, interpersonal skills, and the importance of fostering the mentor relationship.

What is your most recent independent research project?

I am working on creating a device that assists the visually impaired in reading Braille.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I searched the Department of Information Systems for a professor doing research in the area of assistive technologies and Human Centered Computing. I came across Dr. Shaun Kane, who has done much work in these areas.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I didn’t, Dr. Shaun Kane gave me a list of projects in his lab to pick from. I wasn’t able to decide at first, but the opportunity to create a novel device really excited me.

How much time did you put into it?

I spent two hours every Friday during the spring 2012 semester working on the proposal and literature review. I worked about five to eight hours a day Monday through Friday for my summer Research Fellowship.

What academic background did you have before you started?

I was a Mechanical Engineering major for a semester, then I switched to Information Systems for its interdisciplinary nature.

How much did your mentor help you with your research?

My mentor introduced me to the topic and potential directions for the research. I am doing all of the research as an independent study under his guidance.

What has been the hardest part about your research?

The most difficult part of my research is iterative prototyping. This is a cyclic process of designing, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process.

What was the most unexpected thing?

There is no one unexpected thing. The process of design is always unexpected because design, like fashion, changes very rapidly and constantly. Design is always improving.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

As an Information Systems major, I learn to work with computer hardware, software people, and the design process. I get to take what I learned in class and apply it directly to a real world problem.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

Research is a challenging yet rewarding way of exploring your interests. It is not for everyone. However, this should not dissuade you from attempting it, you might discover that you enjoy it and realize a passion of yours.

What are your career goals?

I aspire to go to graduate school and then work in the government in Network Security Administration.