The University of Washington wants its students to become more innovative, and is discussing ways to foster that kind of education.
The University of Washington would like to add a new emphasis to the type of education it offers students: innovation.
The UW’s Board of Regents, the board that oversees the university’s governance, held a wide-ranging discussion last week about the importance of teaching students to be innovators, and how the university can support them.
On Wednesday, the board met in the CoMotion MakerSpace — a large room in Fluke Hall that includes top-of-the-line sewing machines, 3-D printers, laser cutters/engravers, and equipment for electronics fabrication and assembly. The high-tech playground is free and open to all students after they’ve completed some basic training on the equipment, and it’s meant to encourage them to think about how to be more innovative.
Students showed board members different devices they’d made using the materials, and the board also discussed its partnership with Tsinghua University of China, which is collaborating with the UW on a new graduate institute, the Global Innovation Exchange, which will be run jointly at a new location in Bellevue.
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What does innovation look like? Sophomore Thomas Pryor showed regents what he developed in the MakerSpace: A pair of gloves that can translate American Sign Language into the spoken word.
Pryor is not the first to invent a sign-language-translating glove, but his version is lightweight and compact, consisting of a gloves with wires running through the fingers. The gloves connect with a computer via bluetooth, and the computer translates the movements and gestures into words, which it then speaks aloud. The gloves could be used by somebody who is deaf or mute and needs to communicate with somebody who does not know American Sign Language. Pryor, who is majoring in aerospace, says he’s still working on the software coding that translates gestures into words, to make it more accurate.
Pryor’s project is a finalist for the Lemelson-MIT Prize for inventors, which is administered through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
About 700 students have signed up to work in the CoMotion MakerSpace since it opened in March 2015.