Winners announced of inaugural Intelligence ++ Competition

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MeetCute won the $15,000 gold prize, HG Sensory won the $10,000 silver prize and Fundwurx won the $5,000 bronze prize at the first ever Intelligence ++ Competition. Ten interdisciplinary teams from Syracuse University were selected to present proposals for products, services or technologies that enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. Supported by a generous gift to SU Libraries by Gianfranco Zaccai ’70 H’09 and the Zaccai Foundation for Augmented Intelligence (Intelligence++), the challenge was a partnership between the LaunchPad at SU Libraries, the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education (InclusiveU) and the  College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA)

Students came from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Whitman School of Management, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Newhouse School of Public Communications and the School of Information Studies.  Interdisciplinary teams included Syracuse University students studying industrial and interaction design, communications design, fashion design, finance, marketing, data analytics, entrepreneurship and emerging enterprise, mechanical engineering, bioengineering, digital media, advertising, television, radio and film, and information technology.  InclusiveU students also participated on the teams and provided important input on design, accessibility and user feedback.

Teams and members included:

  • Attainable Accessibility with team members Shravani Jadhav, Assul Larancuent, Elizabeth Fatade and Robert Howes
  • CENTRE with team members Noah Hollander and Natalie Liu
  • Drum Flower with team members James Ruhlman and Noah Johnson
  • Fundwurx (Bronze prize) with Ben Ford
  • HG Sensory (Silver prize) with team members Sam Hollander, Grace McDonald, Hannah Woodruff, Kaitlyn Brach, Morgan McMinn and Hannah Frankel
  • inclusiv with team members Emiri Vitoontien and Gokul Beeda
  • MeetCute (Gold prize) with team members Madison Worden and Natalie Liu
  • SmartSupport with team members Patrick McGrath and Cynthia Garcia
  • UrMentor with team members Ricardo Sanchez, Ramya Swaminathan and Maya Gupta
  • Wo-Manly with team members Kelly Davis and Patrick Prioletti

The flagship Intelligence ++ program spanned an entire academic year, supported by the Zaccai Foundation for Augmented Intelligence, which was founded by Gianfranco Zaccai. The foundation seeks to develop, stimulate and leverage technological, educational and organizational innovation to enable and empower individuals with intellectual disability, their families and their communities to improve quality of life, enhance independence and productivity, lower cost and benefit society. 

The April 16 event featured remarks by:  David Seaman, Dean of Syracuse University Libraries; Gianfranco Zaccai, Founder, Zaccai Foundation for Augmented Intelligence; Emily Stokes-Rees, Director, School of Design, College of Visual & Performing Arts; Joanna Masingila, Dean of the School of Education; Beth Myers, Executive Director, The Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education; Don Carr, Program Coordinator, M.F.A. in Design and Industrial and Interaction Design; and Linda Dickerson Hartsock, Executive Director, Blackstone LaunchPad & Techstars, Syracuse University

Judges for the competition included:

  • Gianfranco Zaccai ’70 H’09, a renowned global innovator and designer who was co-founder of Continuum, now EPAM Continuum, a global innovation by design consultancy with offices in Boston, Milan, Seoul and Shanghai. Zaccai is a champion of holistic and interdisciplinary innovation research, design and development. His vision has resulted in many highly successful category-defining products, including the Reebok Pump, P&G’s Swiffer and the Omnipod Insulin Delivery System. He is former chair of the Design Management Institute and past president of the Aspen Conference.
  • Doug Cramer ‘87, managing principal of Alternative Access Capital, LLC (“AAC”), an independent broker-dealer and alternative investments advisory firm, who is also an Advisory Board member of both the Whitman School of Management Advisory Board and the Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education;
  • Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of The Arc of Massachusetts which enhances the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The Arc fulfills this through advocacy for community supports and services that foster social inclusion, self-determination and equity across all aspects of society.
  • Emily Stokes-Rees, associate professor of museum studies and interim director of the School of Design at Syracuse University.  Stokes Rees is a material anthropologist whose research centers on evolving ideas around cultural citizenship, and she also has worked on a wide variety of museum projects and exhibitions in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Asia.

The event also featured a panel discussion with Jill Rothstein and Quinn King.

Rothstein is an award-winning accessibility, inclusion and innovation advocate at The New York Public Library, and chief librarian of the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library.  She co-led the committee for serving children with special needs, and co-led inclusion and advocacy training for New York Public Library and is the winner of the NYC Mayor’s Office Sapolin Accessibility Award for Communication and Technology.  She is also the winner of the Kennedy Center LEAD Emerging Leader Award. 

King ’20, won 11 competitions as a VPA industrial and interaction student and co-founder of MedUX, a user centered medical device design company.  King served as an alumni mentor for the Intelligence ++ program.

Descriptions of the venture ideas are below:

  • Attainable Accessibility is making accessibility more attainable for power chair users using innovative technology identified by Inclusive U student Robert Howes. “Accessibility should promote equity. We believe every person should be able to be in control of their own mobility. Having this control promotes confidence and independence. People with a lack of mobility should not have to sacrifice this. Attainable accessibility will bring inclusivity by giving those who aren’t mobile independence through smart technology that utilizes voice control.”
  • CENTRE is a device that uses sensors designed to assist students with disabilities by limiting the effects of distractions and helping to regain focus and concentration. “CENTRE provides wearable devices with a connected network of touch points where the user can monitor their levels of distraction.  The device tracks eye movements through EEG and a Bluetooth enabled app that connects to phones and smart watches to monitor, record and help resolve distraction with a goal of improving overall lifestyle and wellbeing.”
  • Drum Flower is an interactive sculpture for public spaces that serves as a place for congregation and community bonding. This installation is designed specifically so people with disabilities can also access and engage the community. “The project addresses the marginalization of people with disabilities, specifically with inclusion and connection to their community. Our project’s purpose is to give people a means of communicating and interacting nonverbally with others in a public space.”
  • Fundwurx is multi-service platform that works to accelerate impact driven projects and better connect them with donors, while also providing resources and tools to create an impact further than a donation.  “My company addresses the themes of Intelligence ++ for numerous reasons. The Zaccai Foundation seeks to develop technological, educational, and organizational innovation to enable and empower individuals. Similarly, Fundwurx focuses directly on these core values, using technological tools to create personalized philanthropy at scale.”
  • HG Sensory Enclosure is the world’s first sensory deprivation cocoon, enabling an easier dining experience for individuals with sensory disabilities. “Together, we have the power to enhance the dining experience for thousands of people across the world living with sensory disabilities.”
  • inclusiv is an Inclusive learning management system that increases the scope of learning and accommodate students with disabilities.  “There are 7 million students with disabilities in the American education system, and most of them are deprived of a seamless learning experience due to outdated learning management systems.  We are building an accessible platform from the ground up with tools and features like electronic braille, voice assistance, and content assistance.”
  • MeetCute is a dating and friendship app built with principles of universal design that is accessible to everyone.  “MeetCute is a safe and inclusive app for everyone looking to meet compatible people for companionship and dating.  The top dating apps on the app store are not compatible with the most common accessibility features such as voice-over, text to speech, and changing color contrast. MeetCute will change dating in an image-obsessed culture and provide genuine people a way to meet in a safe digital environment.”
  • Smart Support is an interface that allows people with disabilities to stay connected with their support network. “This app is targeted towards students or individuals who are living away from home and their support network for the first time.  This application focusses on empowering individuals and giving them full and complete control over their network.”
  • UrMentor is a mentorship program for InclusiveU students.  “The program would partner InclusiveU students with high schoolers from the local area as well as provide means of communication, goal-oriented activities, and workshops. The goal of the program is to help foster community, to motivate, and to create positive impact on youth with disabilities.”
  • Wo-manly is an on-line platform for women who are both neurotypical and neurodivergent, to build their own spaces and share their strengths in nontraditional spaces. “Wo-manly is an online platform for women to be empowered, empower others and make lifelong friendships. Wo-manly addresses the themes of Intelligence++ through inclusive design and entrepreneurship by creating an accessible platform for all women to join and build community spaces. Women can interact each other in a multitude of ways: text conversations, video and voice chats, coworking and hangout spaces, private messaging, and in-person meet ups. They can explore communities, and start their own, to make life long, supportive friendships.”