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CSUN Students’ Phone App Alert System wins Competition

By Dana Bartholomew, Staff, 3/12/2013

A team of Cal State Northridge computer hotshots licked top universities throughout the region at a software competition last weekend by designing a winning phone app alert system for the deaf.

The CSUN computer science students clinched the "SS12: Code for a Cause" contest in San Diego, thumping teams from USC and UCLA.

With only two weeks to design their software, the team of five students concocted an Android application that can interpret audio disturbances such as sirens, smoke alarms, car horns or even crying children, then translate them into flashing lights,vibrations and texts to those who could not otherwise hear them. The free app is now available at Google Play.

"When I think about what we did, it's just awesome," said sophomore Matt Newbill, in a statement. "Most people don't think about the needs of persons with disabilities when they're developing a product. I have to confess: I didn't before this competition.

"But now, that will always be in the back of my mind, no matter what I do.

The SS12: Code for Cause competition drew top student software designers to CSUN's 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego. Sponsored by Project Possibility, a nonprofit group dedicated to creating open-source software for the disabled, contestants could chose between nine different projects, including fashioning an app to turn smart phones into emergency alert systems for the hearing impaired.

Judges for the competition included university researchers, advocates for the disabled and the high-tech corporation Oracle.

The CSUN team included Newbill, Kyeong Hoon Jung, Chris Cederstrom, Joshua Licudo and senior Ismael Gonzalez, who said the contest was a great way to put classroom skills into practice by providing a product people will need.

"It feels good," Gonzalez said. "We created something for people who are hearing impaired who may not hear an alarm or a cry if there's something wrong, particularly if they happen to be in their offices or some other location where they are alone and an alarm goes off."

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