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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Computer science team wins award for visual aid apps

A team of graduated seniors won the Drexel University Department of Computer Science’s Annual Outstanding Senior Project Competition May 22, beating out 135 competitors.

Computer science graduates Trevor Adams, Nate Bomberger, Tom Burdak, Shawn Busolits, Andrew Scott, Matt Staniewicz and Nate Vecchiarelli designed five applications with the goal of making daily tasks like typing and reading easier. The seven seniors, advised by Jeff Salvage, decided to call themselves VisAssist, playing on the word “physicist.”

The team chose to visit the Overbrook School for the Blind from a list of facilities given to them. With the help of Dael Cohen, the transition specialist there, VisAssist sat down with groups of 10 to 15 students and discussed what kinds of tools or technology would be helpful to them. The collaboration inspired the birth of each of their applications.

The “Contrastinator” application allows users to manipulate printed text by size and color until they are able to read it. The reason for the color change option is because most individuals find it easier to make out the letters in color rather than black and white.

The application “Binoboard,” a portmanteau of the words “binary” and “keyboard,” operates somewhat like trying to find a page in a book. Where one flips book pages left or right to find the correct page, Binoboard uses letters of the alphabet. It is even designed so that users never need to take more than five swipes left or right to find their chosen letter. Users also have the option to put four words into storage if they are frequently used.

The last three applications were navigators for Facebook, Twitter and Mediawiki.

There were three stages to the project: prototyping, building and testing. Each of these tasks was divided up by term. Mediawiki was the hardest to work with, but there were also issues working with Facebook’s and Twitter’s application programming interfaces because they had to use their designated login.

The seniors chose to create applications for the Android Market because it is free, allows more freedom for design and control, and most importantly, has the largest market share at Overbrook School. However, the team is also planning to create Windows Mobile and iOS versions.

“As a student, you have the time, and you have to use it by getting something started that can have a good impact on society,” Vecchiarelli said.

Since the May 7 release of the five applications, they have been downloaded over 300 times, with “Contrastinator” the most popular by over 100 users. The applications have been downloaded by users in over 40 different countries, with the most users coming from Germany, the United Kingdom and India.

VisAssist hopes that future computer science seniors will take over what they have started.