Communication tech to assist children affected by autism wins Schurz Innovation Challenge at Purdue

December 11, 2015  

Aakash Gupta and James Gerber

Aakash Gupta and James Gerber of HEARD
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - HEARD, or Handheld Educational Augmentative RFID Device, was named the top team and won $5,000 on Thursday (Dec. 10) at the sixth Schurz Innovation Challenge at Purdue.

The HEARD team is made up of James Gerber and Aakash Gupta, students in Purdue University's College of Engineering. The team created a highly portable and easily customizable augmentative communication device for individuals affected by autism.

"Children affected by autism are having issues when it comes to communication, and current products aren't satisfying those needs. We want to provide an effective method of communication, to give children independence compared to other products on the market," said Gupta. "We would like to iterate what we have, to create a beta prototype before we can user test it and determine its commercial viability."

Placing second and receiving $3,500 was A.C.C.E.S.S., which developed an online educational coding environment to help newcomers and early programmers write and test their code.

"A.C.C.E.S.S. has the potential to reach thousands of new generations of programmers. We're not trying to replace the tools used by professionals, but to create tools students can use along with others to excel in code," said team member Mrigank Jha, a student in the College of Engineering. "The next steps are to integrate more languages and expand our base into local high schools and college classes. By December 2016, we may be able to start marketing it."

Third place and $1,500 was awarded to Starving Sounds, a team whose audio distribution platform turns an artist's musical career into a goal-oriented competition.

"We want the musician from North Dakota who knows 17 people to have the same opportunity as the musician from New York who knows 17,000. There needs to be a system where music is uploaded, but musicians don't have to market music for hits. The quality of the music should determine results, not marketing skills," said team member Nick Abbott. "We will put the money we won toward development, which is the most significant cost we have."

Socio, which links a user's contact information, including social media accounts, into one profile, won $500 as the crowd's favorite entry.

Schurz Communications Inc. sponsors the competition, which is organized by Purdue Foundry and held once each semester. It provides participants the opportunity to test their creativity and skills in developing innovative ideas in media technology. Participants developed and demonstrated prototypes that were judged by a panel of entrepreneurs and media professionals. Fifteen teams and almost 40 people competed in this semester's competition, with each team required to have at least one Purdue graduate student or undergraduate student.

About Schurz Communications Inc.

Schurz Communications Inc. is a Mishawaka, Indiana-based news and information company, which consists of five business segments: Broadcasting Radio, Broadcasting TV, Cable TV, Newspaper Publishing and Digital Media.

The company publishes daily and weekly newspapers in medium and small markets with a combined circulation of nearly 225,000. It also has 10 television stations, owns 13 radio stations and operates three others, owns four cable companies and a phone directory. Geographically, Schurz Communications has a presence in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. The Purdue Foundry is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year from the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at 

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Steve Martin, 765-588-3342, 

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