Goodwill NYNJ Staff Mentors CUNY Team to Win $10k 2nd Prize!

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Goodwill NYNJ Staff Mentors CUNY Team to Win $10k 2nd Prize!

A team of students from the Grove School of Engineering at City University of NY (CUNY) won second place and a $10,000 prize in CREATE (Cultivating Resources for Employment with Assistive Technology), a state-wide competition that NY Industries for the Disabled (NYSID) sponsors annually. Goodwill NYNJ staff served as expert consultants for the team of students about the challenges that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face while seeking employment.

NYSID has held CREATE for the last 4 years to remove workplace barriers for people with disabilities, inspire innovation and creativity among students, and foster collaboration between universities and rehabilitation agencies in NYS. Each year, NYSID pairs a member agency with an engineering school to identify a project and provides the teams with $1,000 to develop the prototypes. To get started, staff from our ASD programs and participants came up with a list of barriers they face.

“We presented the list to the professor and the class so they could brainstorm on solutions,” says Celina Cavalluzzi, Goodwill NYNJ Director of Day Services. “The goal was for the students to come up with a prototype that could have the best chance of receiving funding for production.” Once a proposal was approved, the students visited our Long Island City and Harlem sites to meet the participants and to learn how they would use the prototype. They went back to this NY programs throughout the year to test the app with participants.

The VAR4ASD (Virtual Augmented Reality for people with ASD) team created a smart phone application to help people with ASD be more productive in the workplace by help them to safely walk in unfamiliar outdoor locations. Using the smart phone’s camera, the app shows in real time the path the person should follow to safely avoid obstacles and cross streets. The app uses   Augmented Reality to layer a green arrow to show the route.

“This project is a win-win for all – the students won the $10k prize and Goodwill NYNJ will get to use the app & technology for free when it hits the market,” comments Celina. “Most importantly, we have introduced the engineering students to the ‘human’ side of engineering. They will start their careers knowing that they can make a difference in the life of someone with a disability.”