Campus Catalysts Turn Ideas into Action

Projects Recognized at Student Entrepreneur Showcase

William Gould, right, demonstrates the Speech Assistant, a device intended for use by children with autism or other developmental disabilities, during the Campus Catalyst Showcase in December.

William Gould, right, demonstrates the Speech Assistant, a device intended for use by children with autism or other developmental disabilities, during the Campus Catalyst Showcase in December.

01/06/2012
By Edwin L. Aguirre

Three innovative student projects from UMass Lowell and a partner institution were among the nine entrepreneurial projects and ideas that were recognized during the Campus Catalyst Showcase held in December.

“The Mind Mouse Project” by senior electrical engineering students David Harrington and Erin Webster and “The Speech Assistant” by junior electrical engineering student William Gould and junior plastics engineering student Erin Keaney were honored with the “Most Likely to Succeed” award, while “UconnectLAW.com” created by liberal arts senior Jean Luis Marte and Jonathan Maldonado, a sophomore at Northern Essex Community College, won the “Entrepreneurial Spirit” category.

Campus Catalyst is an experiential program at UMass Lowell, Northern Essex Community College, Merrimack College and Middlesex Community College that encourages and supports students to take a chance on a new idea and develop a profit or non-profit entrepreneurial venture for it. Such ventures could potentially benefit the environment, the local community or society as a whole. A total of 54 student-designed projects were submitted to the program during last year’s fall semester.

Campus Catalyst is sponsored by the Merrimack Valley Sandbox Initiative, the Merrimack Valley Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at UMass Lowell and the Deshpande Foundation.

Cultivating Future Entrepreneurs, Leaders

The Mind Mouse is an assistive technology device designed to help people with physical disabilities or neurodegenerative disorders — such as those suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — to use their facial muscles and/or brain waves to control a specially designed communication software package on their Android tablets or PCs.

“This system not only allows such individuals to be able to communicate once again with their families and caregivers but it also has the potential to open them up to the world of computer games, music, e-mail and the web,” says Harrington, who presented the Mind Mouse concept with Webster at an assistive technology workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, last June. 

The Speech Assistant is a portable electronic device designed for children with autism or other developmental disabilities that affect their ability to express themselves to parents and educators. 

“When a child pushes any one of an array of picture buttons on the Speech Assistant, the device plays a recording of someone close to the child saying what that picture represents,” says Gould. “It is very simple, but we are working on adding features to make it easier to record the messages as well as creating a plastic case for the device that is safe for children.”

UconnectLAW.com is a networking website where law students and legal professionals can connect online. 

“The site helps students find local law-related events and internships, network with school representatives, form study groups with fellow students, share advice when applying for law school, buy or sell books, and much more,” says Marte. 

For more information on how to become the next Campus Catalyst, contact Janin Duran at 978-934-6619; janin@merrimackvalleysandbox.org, or go to www.uml.edu/mvsandbox/application.html.