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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
  • Christian Schwartz
  • (515) 294-1431
Award Date:08/25/2010
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 250,983
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 103,119
  • FY 2010=$103,119
Start Date:01/01/2011
End Date:12/31/2012
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.041
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Empowering the visually impaired by understanding links between tactility and properties of surfaces
Federal Award ID Number:1034471
DUNS ID:847205572
Parent DUNS ID:042915991
Program:Disability & Rehab Engineering

Awardee Location

Street:400 Harvey Mitchell Pkwy S
City:College Station
County:College Station
Awardee Cong. District:17

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
Street:400 Harvey Mitchell Pkwy S
City:College Station
County:College Station
Cong. District:17

Abstract at Time of Award

In blind or visually impaired (BVI) individuals, a primary means of delivering information is through tactile channels such as Braille and raised-line illustrations. However, these systems present complications in translating non-tactile information to these forms, and also result in cumbersome and space-consuming materials for instruction and communication of technical and artistic ideas. This is a considerable hindrance to the ability of BVI persons to fully participate in engineering and the sciences, which rely heavily on the presentation and manipulation of graphical information during instruction and peer discussion. A revolutionary improvement in technology is required to address this issue. Currently, there is a lack of fundamental science to address how surfaces can be manipulated to convey tactile information. Thus, there is a critical need to better understand the causative relationships between surface properties (mechanical, textural, thermal, chemical) and the resulting tactile attributes of surfaces (texture, softness, abrasiveness, etc.), as well as a need to train engineers to objectively consider tactility and other sensory attributes during design. Addressing these needs will have a transformative effect not only on the materials science-based understanding of human interaction with surfaces, but also on the paradigms of education and professional occupation of the visually impaired. The objectives of this proposed work are to test the hypotheses that: 1. Surface tactility can be described quantitatively by a collection of objective tactile descriptors and associated scores, 2. Objective causal relationships exist that relate tactile attributes to engineering-based surface properties, 3. Tactility can be used with a problem-based learning approach to educate engineers to address sensory design goals, as well as attract BVI students to study engineering and science in college. This work will employ a thorough experimental approach. Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA) will be used with human evaluators to meticulously identify and quantify the individual tactile descriptors of both textile and solid polymer surfaces. Surfaces will also be analyzed by a number of methods including tribological testing, dynamic mechanical analysis, and surface topography measurement. Statistical and neural network techniques will be employed to identify and investigate relationships between the tactile descriptors and the surface property values. The research tasks will be closely integrated with the educational activities of this work through a number of innovative mechanisms. Intellectual Merit. This work is novel and transformative because it will be the first broad engineering based approach to understanding how to directly control and optimize the tactile feel of a variety of surfaces and thus produce insights into efficient means of conveying tactile information. This knowledge will also foster new fields of research that will bridge the gap between engineering and neuroscience. Control of tactility will revolutionize paradigms in such fields as haptic displays and textiles, but more importantly will open new doors into the possibilities for educational tools for BVI students as well as technologies to facilitate greater participation of these persons in engineering and science. There is a unique synergy with the biotribology and polymers background of the PI and the resources of his institution that maximize the probability of successful completion of this work. Broader Impacts. These results will have far-reaching impact on the fundamental understanding of the materials science based origins of tactility. The work will also serve as an instructional platform to expose students to design experiences that incorporate sensory assessment of engineered products. A problem based pedagogical approach, termed iSENSE, will be incorporated into graduate and capstone design courses. A goal of iSENSE is to enable engineering students to transcend discipline paradigms in order to address real-world design challenges that involve sensory assessment. iSENSE also targets the recruitment of middle- and high school BVI students to engineering and science, by their participation in PI-led enrichment courses that will incorporate tactility into engineering design inspired activities. Undergraduate engineering students will work on design projects to develop instructional technology to help facilitate the learning of the BVI students during these enrichment courses.

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