P07001: ARC Communication Board

Project Readiness Package

Table of Contents

The objective of the Project Readiness Package is to document:

It will serve as the primary source of information for students necessary during Phase 0 (Planning) to develop a SD I plan and schedule including specific deliverables and due dates. The Project Readiness Package will also support Faculty evaluation of project suitability in terms of depth, scope, and student / faculty resources by discipline.

Administrative Information

Proposal Number 5
Project Name: ARC Communication Board
Project Number: P07001
Track: Assistive Device and Bioengineering
Start Term: Fall 2006-1
End Term: Winter 2006-2 (Flexible)
Faculty Guide: D. Phillips, dbpeee@rit.edu
Faculty Consultant: E. DeBartolo, eademe@rit.edu
Customer organization: ARC of Monroe County, Southwest
Customer contact information: Lisa Drewsky, (l_drewski@arcmonroe.org)
Principal sponsor: NSF

Project Continuation


Project Overview

The ARC of Monroe County has requested a communication board for one of its consumers who has limited verbal and spelling capabilities. This would replace a paper-based communication book. In the past, the individual has utilized a commercial electronic communication board that has a fixed membrane keypad with a variety of changeable overlays.

The drawback to the paper-based communication book is the cumbersome manner in which the individual needs to leaf through the pages to find the appropriate symbol which appears upside down if the person they are communicating with is standing in front of them. This has resulting in frustration and decreasing use of the current communication book.

The communication book was preceeded by the commercially available electronic communication board. There were at least four drawbacks with this device:

The requested communication board should be designed to address these issues and supplant the current paper-based communication book.

Staffing Requirements

Discipline Number of Students Skills Required
EE 4 Embedded software development, embedded hardware design, analog input/output circuit design, battery-based rechargeable power supply design
ME 2 Material selection, enclosure/keyboard design and manufacture, tray fixture or storage mechanism design and manufacture

Continuation, Platform, or Building Block Project Information


Principle Sponsor or Sponsoring Organization


Detailed Description

The individual can hear and understand others, and has normal vision, but does not communicate verbally and has minimal spelling skills. The individual has used an electronic communication board in the past, but does not now due to a tendency to knock it off the wheelchair tray onto the floor. This person may also self-injure when upset, so the device should not pose any danger to the user. The individual is able to point to short series of pictures from a communication book to construct simple sentences, but an electronic board that would speak words and sentences aloud would be an improvement. The ARC can provide sample pictures (Mayer-Johnson symbols, the standard used at the ARC) for a standardized set; these pictures are generally grouped into categories (people, colors, feelings, requests, places, etc), and the individual can page through the categories independently to find the necessary pictures. Products to benchmark against include a McCaw device (previously used) and a Dynavox Series 4 device (considered an ideal). The communication board will allow this individual to become more independent outside of the ARC when required to communicate with others. It will also be used to help teach the individual.

Currently the communication board would only be utilized in a controlled day treatment program setting. There is an eventuality that, if a successful design is achieved and implemented, that the unit would accompany the individual at both the day treatment program and their living accomodations. Presuming a reasonable sleep/waking pattern, that would entail a potential daily on time of 16 to 18 hours with 8 to 6 hours for recharging.

Customer Needs



Customer Deliverables

SDI: Proposed concepts and planned final design for customer review and approval, final detailed design concept for customer approval.

SDII: Prototype that has been tested with final user, User's Manual, parts list including sources for replacing consumables, and training session for ARC staff

Customer and Sponsor Involvement

Regulatory Requirements

ADA, as applicable, Electrical Safety (if there is a charging system)

Project Budget and Special Procurement Processes

$1200. All purchases to be made on SDAPD credit card. Team will provide weekly budget/BOM updates and return annotated receipts with credit card.

Intellectual Property Considerations

Hardware and software should be developed using non-proprietary tools and result in no IP infringement considerations or on-going licensing concerns.

Engineering Specifications

Safety Constraints

As stated in the Customer Required list - Needs to be safe for utilization by individual, caregiver(s), peers and others in terms of both mechanical and electrical aspects (e.g., no sharp corners, potential constrictive structures, shock hazards, over-heating, disruptive electrical electrical signal generation).

Detailed Course Deliverables

Overall Deliverables

  1. Communication board
  2. User's manual
  3. Complete documentation regarding design, implementation, testing and on-going maintanance of device

Deliverables Breakdown

  1. Communication board
  1. User's manual
  1. Complete documentation regarding design, implementation, testing and on-going maintanance of device

Preliminary Work Breakdown

Objective: Development of design of a robust, durable embedded system with touch input, audio output, reconfigurable image display and rechargeable battery based power supply to facilitate user interface with individual and caregiver(s) that includes control by individual as well as configuration (e.g. figures that will be displayed, volume control, activation enable) by caregiver(s).

Grading and Assessment Scheme

Grading will be as indicated on the standard grade form. Additional graded deliverables specific to this project include a complete User's Manual and a 2-page summary of the project suitable for publicizing the project in n annual report. These will be included in the Discretionary Deliverables category for SDII.

Grading levels


Average expectations ( C ) Parameterized design of prototype system that could be implemented to evaluate functionality and user interface.

Above average expectations ( B ) Average expectations plus PC based test system that could be utilized with individual and caregiver(s) to evaluate optimal configuration and interaction.

Excellent ( A ) Above average expectations plus development of a test bed comprised of prototype components that could be utilized with individual and caregiver(s) to evaluate optimal configuration and interaction.


Average expectations ( C ) development of a prototype system that exhibits required functionality that could be used for evaluation and then incorporated into a complete, stand-alone design.

Above average expectations ( B ) development and testing of a complete, functional, stand-alone design based on integration of currently available, off-the-shelf, modules (e.g., computing platform, keyboard, audio module, etc.).

Excellent ( A ) development and testing of a complete, functional, stand-alone design based on at least one mechanical and one electrical custom design system component that incorporates open-source and other non-proprietary components.

Three-Week SDI Schedule

Review project readiness package; conduct benchmarking study on existing products; site visit to refine and finalize customer needs; develop design specifications and ensure that they address all customer needs; develop design concepts in enough detail to assess their feasibility in terms of cost, technical expertise, and schedule

Required Resources

Source Description Available
RIT EE Advise - embedded system design, hardware and software, and user interface design and circuitry, D. Phillips Yes
Source Description Available
ARC Observe customer using communication book Yes
RIT Space for storage, testing and construction - EE Senior Design Lab Yes
Source Description Available
RIT Equipment for assembly and testing of device Yes
Source Description Available
NSF Funds to purchase materials to build device Yes
RIT Reference documents for applicable codes and regulatory agencies - Wallace Library Yes
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