We may have met our goal, but we are by no means done! Team Vive has been working tirelessly to achieve our mission in giving a voice to the voiceless. In the past few weeks, we have participated in several exciting events, brought on new members to the team and continued to perfect our Voz Box technology.
Project Vive is expanding and has taken on several new interns this year. Welcome Heather and Jessie to our Strategic Communications Team. They will be the dynamic duo behind our social media and raising awareness for Project Vive. In our engineering department, Project Vive is proud to introduce Vinny and Ryan to the technical team. Ryan will be working on programming and further developing our technology, while Vinny will be contributing to the mechanical design of our many sensors of the Voz Box. Reed will be assisting in project management, grant discovery, and administration work with our fiscal sponsor
Our interns got to hit the ground running at Innoblue and LaunchBox’s Networking Night where we had a booth on display to showcase our organization and our mission to provide affordable and customizable speech generation devices to those who need it. Interns, Heather and Jessie spoke with prospective students interested in joining Team Vive. They also got to chat with and learn about other local startups that also found their start at Happy Valley Launch Box. We debuted our new Snapchat account as well, so now you can watch our stories to stay up to date with Project Vive.
However, our efforts did not stop there. Our technology team took in the broken toys and speech generation devices from Easter Seals of SEPA back in October and breathed new life into them. When we returned the repaired toys and devices in January, the amazing people over at Easter Seals were delighted to receive 62 newly fixed toys and speech generating devices for the incredible children with special needs that they work with. It was a blast delivering the toys to these kids and getting to discover that Santa’s job is very rewarding. You can learn more about the toy delivery on Easter’s Seals blog that was written about of efforts here.
“Project Vive really came to the rescue! Muchas Gracias to Project Vive!” - Sandy Masayko, Director of Assistive Technology Easter Seals of SouthEastern Pennsylvania
Our founder, Mary Elizabeth has been up to exciting new things. She recently visited the Hershey ALS Clinic where she began beta testing our Voz Box technology. This will provide Project Vive with an immense amount of insight on the progress of our engineers’ hard work. Thanks to Yih Lerh and his team at Ability Spectrum for allowing us to start on their gaze detector software and collaborate with us on the current gaze detector. As a volunteer researcher he has designed many innovative communication devices for patients at Saint-Vincent Hospital (Bruyere Continuing Care) AAC Clinic and clients of Tetra Society in Canada. Check them out here. We are also exceptionally grateful for collaboration with Hershey Medical Center ALS Clinic.
“We got to try the technology with a patient who is essentially trapped inside her body and hasn't spoken in a long time. To see the look of joy on her (and her family's) face when she was successful was priceless. We are so excited to work with you.” Carrie Reichwein, Speech Language Pathologist, ALS Clinic Penn State Hershey Medical Center
That’s it for now! Stay tuned for our biweekly newsletter to keep up-to-date on everything happening with Project Vive and our mission to provide a voice to the voiceless! Follow our social media for daily updates, we just launched a new Snapchat so be sure to add that too!
Project Vive has been a labor of love.
These children had limited control of their bodies and were only able to communicate by others guessing their emotions and asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.
At the orphanage, there was only one communication board for the entire group to use. I worked with one of the young men to teach him how to use the board. Over a month, he was able to pick up how to use the tool and had some of the most complex communication in his life. Then, the tool broke, with no hope to fix it. This man had the opportunity to speak, but lost that ability because the technology couldn’t easily be fixed.
It was this moment that hit me the hardest. The children I spent every day with were coherent thinkers and wanted to communicate, but they couldn’t speak without great difficulty and immense patience on the part of both the child and caregiver. It’s hard for us to think of a life where we are not able to say what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling. Furthermore, people who are unable to communicate have a hard time integrating into the community and contributing thoughts, wants, and feelings to the people around them. I knew then that I wanted to devote myself to finding a way to improve the lives of the Ecuadorian kids I met, and all those with non-verbal disabilities.
Over the last five years, I have been working to make a solution that was not only easy for the user and the caregiver, but that was affordable and customizable based on the controllable movements of the user. The Voz Box is the patented end product of this five-year journey.
The Penn State community has been one of the most inviting and helpful networks. The faculty and staff have been with us every step of the way. They connected us to patent lawyers, pointed to opportunities for funding, gave space to work, mentored us and provided lots of cheerleading along the way. We were provided space in Happy Valley Launchbox, have been funded by the Summer Founder Program & Inc. U and have been championed by the Invent Penn State Initiative.
Our “Journey to 10 Voices” Indiegogo campaign is the culmination of the last five years, especially the hard work myself and the team have put in since I was able to go full-time post graduation. Our first device user, Arlyn, has been using her Voz Box since August 2016. With her device, she has been able to share her poetry with two live audiences. This fundraising campaign will enable us to give fully customized Voz Boxes to 10 people and get us a step closer to bringing the product fully to market.
Also, during this campaign, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Dublin, Ireland to participate in the The ALS Association's Assistive Technology Challenge, which takes place today. I am so excited to collaborate and learn alongside the other four amazing teams as well as some of the top doctors and researchers in the ALS field.