Students hit the right notes with accessible instruments
This is an excerpt of a story originally published on the Faculty of Engineering news site.
A class of systems design engineering students has proven that just about anyone can play a musical instrument, even individuals with complete hearing loss. Students in Matt Borland’s SYDE 361 course gave an end-of-term concert demonstrating what they designed over the past three months for people with various disabilities.
By combining hands-on engineering skills and creativity, 16 teams came up with everything from a wearable tech vest that allows people with hearing loss to enjoy music through both sight and vibrations, to a synthesizer for the blind and an accessible xylophone for people with stage 2 rheumatoid arthritis.
Team Toto built an instrument for people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that is caused by a genetic defect and leads to muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass. The students produced a keyboard that requires less force to play in a much smaller range of motion. The keys are backed with Velcro so they can be easily repositioned in a way that is ergonomically best for the individual.
A modified piano for stroke survivors was created by team Astratta.“When people suffer strokes usually half their body ends up with less dexterity,” said member Rachelyn Collins. “So we created a piano on which they can play with one hand while playing pre-recorded chords that before a stroke could have been played with the other.”
Borland, a systems design engineering lecturer, said working closely with individuals with various accessibility issues was meaningful for his students.
“We were very lucky to have the support of the Waterloo Experiential Learning Institute that provided us with funding so we could pay for participants to come in,” said Borland. “It was great exposure for our students and provided a lot of growth for them both as designers and as people.
Offloading information could expose our memories to manipulation
This is an excerpt of an article originally published on the Faculty of Arts news site.
When people use their computer or smartphone to store information, they may not be able to detect if that information has been manipulated when they retrieve it later, according to researchers from the University of Waterloo.
“In our study, individuals could rely on an external store when trying to remember some material and manipulations of that store often went undetected,” said Evan Risko, lead author of the study and a professor of psychology.
For the study, participants performed a series of memory tasks where they were required to use a file on a computer to store and later recall a list of words that the researchers presented to them. This computer file functioned as the participant’s external memory store similar to how people might store information they want to remember on a smartphone. For the first three trials, the list the participants stored on the computer was untouched. This allowed participants to develop trust in their external memory store.
On the last trial, researchers secretly inserted a new word into the computer file before the information was retrieved. They then used a variety of measures to determine whether participants noticed the added word or not.
The results showed that people rarely noticed the manipulation of the computer file. In fact, they were often highly confident that items inserted into their external memory had been part of their original list.