When Fresno State grew concerned over visually impaired students accidentally wandering into construction zones, it called on local company One Sense which, in turn, developed an app that can guide students around virtually any obstacle.
This “bold” idea was presented at the second annual President’s Showcase of Excellence Thursday afternoon at the Satellite Student Union.
CEO of One Sense Matt Tymn said the app uses sensors placed around the campus on buildings, trash cans, poles and even golf carts. When someone approaches a sensor and has the app on his or her smartphone or Apple Watch, the device will vibrate and a voice will say what is coming up.
“It’s all about empowering the students,” Tymn said. “This platform helps them feel connected to the campus. One student, Jed, would bump into planters outside of the Smittcamp House every day. With the app, he doesn’t do that anymore.”
Tymn mentioned the success of another visually impaired student, Shaela Warkentin, in using the app. Warkentin was blinded after she was struck by a DUI driver, and today she is using the app to navigate the campus.
“It’s my goal next year, or at least before I graduate, to be able to walk to all of my classes completely by myself,” Warkentin said. “It’s been a huge help so far. Today even when I walked in it said, ‘Welcome to the President’s Showcase of Excellence.’”
Tymn said this technology is innovative, accessible and empowering, which aligns it with President Dr. Joseph Castro’s five-year plan. Castro said he was pleased with widespread participation in the event.
“This is the second year. This looks like it even surpasses last year in terms of energy and the number of ideas,” Castro said. “This shows our faculty and staff are engaged, and they are interested in helping to make Fresno State an even stronger university.”
Castro said the showcase proves that bold ideas come from individuals all over campus regardless of rank or position. Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Frank Lamas echoed Castro’s enthusiasm regarding the number of ideas presented and the people involved.
“This is amazing,” Lamas said. “Our faculty, our staff and our students just have some amazing projects that really take care of our entire community. There are a million great projects here that are just going to make our community a so much better place to be.”
Lamas cited the CARE team – the confidential campus advocate working with student victims of sexual assault – and the food security program as just a few of the many projects on display. The Satellite Student Union was packed with projects and ideas concerned with service, technology, innovation, career growth and more.
One particularly engaging booth involved an augmented reality sandbox created by the geomatics engineering program of the Lyles College of Engineering.
Geomatics engineering student Victor Rasgado said the sandbox, meant for educational purposes, uses an Xbox Kinect as a remote sensor similar to what Google Earth achieves just on a smaller scale. The Kinect projects a topographic map over sand that changes as the sand is manipulated by hand. In a way, the sandbox allows people to move mountains.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Rasgado said. “I can mess around with the sandbox and play with it for hours.”
Student Marcus Castro said the sandbox was one of the “coolest” displays at the showcase. Castro said he attended the event to get a better idea of the developments at Fresno State.
“There’s are so many great things going on around campus, but a lot of people don’t know about it,” Castro said.
Another portion of the showcase included ideas on their way to becoming practices. Castro announced five ideas that have been chosen out of 146 entries in the Bold Ideas Challenge to be implemented in the next year. Each of the ideas focuses on one strategic area of Castro’s five-year plan.
Near the close of the event, Castro invited the crowd to raise a glass of apple cider with him in a toast to the excellence exhibited at the showcase.
“We’ve seen 90 examples of bold and innovative ideas today,” Castro said. “This is boldness at its very best.”