Rob Roth, AccessComputing Staff

This past summer, the premiere of two animation shorts ( and developed by ten students graduating from the 2010 Summer Academy for Advancing Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Computing (Summer Academy) was attended by parents, instructors, and community members. It marked the successful completion of the fourth year of this innovative Summer Academy, bringing the total number of students that have completed the Academy to thirty-eight.

A typical student week during the Academy included animation, computer programming, and Academy Base (e.g., homeroom). One day a week was set aside for field trips to local software and hardware companies.

At the Academy, students learned basic concepts of animation, including lighting, movement, shading, and storyboarding during a certificate course in animation using Maya software. Two teams were formed, providing students valuable lessons in leadership and working together as team members.

Computing professionals who are deaf or hard of hearing met with academy students and talked about their educational and work experience, how they addressed accessibility issues, and the projects they currently work on. These presentations were followed by one-on-one mentoring sessions. Guest speakers included employees from Amazon, Cray Supercomputing, DeafCode, IBM, Microsoft, and National Technical Institute for the Deaf, among others.

Academy Base classes provided a regular time for students to engage with guest mentors, graduate student research presentations, student presentations on careers in computing, and demonstrations in current accessibility research. Graduate students gave presentations on customizing computer applications, programs that provide self-feedback in a variety of processes, privacy issues in designing social networking systems, power saving strategies for enabling video conversations on cell phones, multi-touch interaction for tabletop computing, and building a robot using neurobiological concepts.

Graduate and undergraduate students conducting research in the field of accessible technology presented on topics including MobileAccessibility, using smart phones to solve accessibility problems; ClassInFocus, a system for classroom accessibility for students who are deaf or hard of hearing; ASL-STEM Forum, a online dictionary of American Sign Language terms in computing; and MobileASL, a project that is working to make video conversations in ASL possible on cell phone networks. These presentations provided academy students with a peek into how university research programs are conducted by graduate students.

An important aspect of the Summer Academy is the ability to take students on field trips to the many industry software and hardware corporations that are headquartered or have a significant presence in Seattle. Some of these visits included the opportunity to meet employees who are deaf and hard of hearing at Cray, Google and Microsoft. Other companies visited included Adobe, Intel, and Valve.

Funders of the 2010 program include Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Oracle Corporation, Cray Supercomputers, Google, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, SignOn, Microsoft, Oracle, and Cray.

For more information on the academy, visit