In a room full of close to 90 people, with countless conversations going on around them, Angela Burda and Stephen Hughes only had eyes and ears for each other. They were at UNI's third annual Campus Connexus, an event aimed at promoting networking and collaboration among faculty and staff, and they were making a connection that would impact their lives for the next two years.
After connecting at UNI's Campus Connexus event, Burda and Hughes created Name That!, an app that helps patients suffering from Aphasia.
Burda, a professor in UNI's Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders, had gone to Campus Connexus in hopes of finding help developing a computer program to aid the speech therapy process. Hughes, program assistant in UNI's John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC), was looking to continue his research on how people interact and collaborate through technology. Through Campus Connexus, they found a way to help each other meet their goals.
Together, they created Name That!, an app for Apple and Android devices that aims to help patients suffering from Aphasia, a language disorder that inhibits speech and language comprehension, regain access to their vocabulary. It was a process that took almost three years and involved working with students, applying for grants and learning about each other's fields.
"It was really an interesting process in bringing together two different fields with different technology and thinking processes," said Burda.
For Hughes and his team of students from the computer science department, this meant looking at standard practices in speech pathology. "We had to learn a lot about speech therapy and how to support that in the software," he said.
The result is a quality application that mirrors industry standards. "This is based on what's called Semantic Feature Analysis," said Burda. "This is something that's already been well established. Now, we're taking it and putting it into a format that fits for today's world."
Burda and Hughes are working on promoting and continuing to develop the app. They've already presented it at a couple of regional and international conferences and have plans for additional versions, including one designed for use in hospitals and long-term care settings.
The successful launch of Name That! is a testament to the resources available at UNI, especially the AppsLab. Name That! is the first app to come out of JPEC's AppsLab and was used as a model in developing the program.
While the AppsLab is just starting out, Burda sees its potential. "The AppsLab is a hidden gem on campus," she said. "Once people find out this resource is there, I think the opportunities are unlimited in terms of what will be able to come out of this university."
According to Hughes, the entire experience—from meeting Burda at Campus Connexus, to collaborating with students, to launching the AppsLab—is an example of UNI's strengths as an institution. "This isn't two professors doing their own research and sitting in their offices," he said. "This project is an example of a university working the way it should be working."