Project For Children With Autism Wins Georgia Tech Competition
Georgia Tech students have collaborated with teachers at The Lionheart School in Alpharetta to develop an award-winning prototype for an interactive storytelling activity designed to help children with autism. The project, “Kinect the Dots,” won first place at last month’s Convergence Innovation Competition (CIC) at Georgia Tech in the Health IT category.
Kinect the Dots, which uses the Kinect feature on the Xbox gaming system, allows children to participate in key moments of the classic story, Jack and the Beanstalk. While teachers read the book aloud, students use the Kinect to “climb” the beanstalk or “paint” houses.
“The incidence of autism is rising, and storytelling plays a big part in autism therapy,” said project leader Sanika Mokashi. “It allows children to master language skills, develop curiosity and interpret emotions. Teachers already use digital interactions to engage children with autism in storytelling. Our project takes it a step further by creating a customized storytelling application for use with existing interactive technology.”
Mokashi and her classmates in the School of Interactive Computing began the project after observing Lionheart teachers using stories to keep their students engaged. Using those experiences, the researchers developed the first version of the program. Teachers and students tested the software and provided feedback, allowing the team to fine-tune the program and submit it to the competition.
“Being able to provide tools that improve communication and engagement is a critical goal for our students,” said Tamara Spafford, executive director of The Lionheart School. “We are excited to be part of this work with Georgia Tech.”
“Sanika and her team did a great job developing this project,” said School of Interactive Computing Research Scientist Agata Rozga. “We will continue to create a library of stories and interactive tools that will allow Lionheart and other schools to easily create new stories based on the students’ interests. Our partnership with Lionheart gives Georgia Tech researchers access to knowledge of the educational needs of children with autism, enabling us to develop a program that helps children interact intuitively with technology.”