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Virtual game targeting kids with autism gets innovation grant

Virtual game targeting children with ASD
Biokinesiology student Na-hyeon Ko demonstrates the jumping movement that the team hopes to enhance in children with autism spectrum disorder using the interactive virtual game. Biomedical engineering student Alexander Reyes collects data. (Photo/Sara Villagran)

Four USC graduate students collaborating on an interactive virtual game aimed at helping children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) develop bodily stability and coordination have received a USC Diploma in Innovation grant.

Hyeshin Park and Na-hyeon Ko, PhD students in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, and Alexander Reyes and Brendan Holt, biomedical engineering graduate students, were awarded $5,000 by the USC Office of the Provost to design a system that detects the frequency and quality of a child’s jumping by means of an accelerometer attached to the child’s shoe.

Data from the accelerometer will be communicated to a video game receiver using Bluetooth technology. The student team hypothesizes that this system may promote gross motor skills in children with ASD, who tend to engage deeply with interactive devices.

During the yearlong project, the team will be mentored by Francisco Valero-Cuevas, a professor of biomedical engineering with a joint appointment in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy.

Team members will participate in a series of six required seminars that will provide both practical skills and creative perspectives. Topics include creative thinking, methods of collaboration, social entrepreneurship, development of a business plan and intellectual property law.

The interactive virtual game is one of 13 projects funded by the Diploma in Innovation program. This year, the program will enable 27 graduate students at USC to develop their projects in partnership with faculty mentors, master’s degree students, undergraduate students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty from other universities.

Each team will present its project outcomes at a concluding symposium in April 2013 to a faculty committee, which will determine if the work qualifies for a Diploma in Innovation.

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Virtual game targeting kids with autism gets innovation grant

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