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IU graduate students win tech innovation challenge


Tingyu Li and Pavithra Ramamurthy pitch their "Buddy" speech therapy robot for children with cleft lip and palate. The team won first prize and $7,500 at the third annual Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Two IU graduate students won first place in an innovation competition organized by the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering on April 11, according to a release from the University. 

Tingyu Li and Pavithra Ramamurthy, second-year master's students studying Human-Computer Interaction Design in SICE, developed a robot "Buddy," which encourages speech therapy in children with cleft lip and palate, because of their desire to help children, according to the release. 

The first-place recognition in the 2018 Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge included a $7,500 award. 

The robot encourages speech therapy through storytelling with friends and family.

"When a child is practicing in a clinical setting, she is thinking about how she is pronouncing the word," Ramamurthy said in the release. "In a home setting, children get excited and talk really fast. That is the context Tingyu and I want to give."

Children born with the condition are subject to social stigmas and have difficulty articulating words that require the rolling of the tongue. According to the release, Ramamurthy's sister was born with the condition and Li's father has performed 7,000 free surgeries for children.

The two said in the release they will use the award money to build another prototype.

"Seeing a child use Buddy would be the best day of my life," Li said in the release. 

Jesse Naranjo

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