Grad's Speech Therapy Game Aims to Help Kids and Teachers Alike

December 12, 2014

The Speech With Sam program aims to help children with speech therapy goals.

Zachary Rubin applied to UCSC after graduating from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He is pursuing a PhD in human computer interaction and developing systems for children with disabilities.

After graduating, you were deciding between continuing in the tech industry, and continuing your education. Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz?

I chose UCSC because of Baskin's stellar computer engineering department and research labs. With computer engineering still a very new field, few universities have it as a major, much less research being conducted. Specifically, Sri Kurniawan, Jose Renau, Michael Mateas, and Gabriel Elkaim's labs had the greatest potential for interesting projects I could impact.

You're currently working on an interactive game for children with impaired speech called Speech With Sam; how did you develop this research project?

speech with sam screen grabThis research was presented by Professor Kurniawan in Fall 2011, during the Research and Teaching class where professors discussed research in their labs. Towards the end of her talk she quickly mentioned a project that involved bringing mobile games to speech therapy for child patients, but did not have any more information beyond the idea. With previous experience in game design, mobile development, and speech recognition, I met with her and offered to spearhead the project. 

The goal is to improve speech therapy for children and introduce modern technology to speech therapy. Currently, we want to run a yearlong study with children currently enrolled in speech therapy so that we may investigate the effectiveness of this tool.

Congratulations on your success in the BigIdeas@Berkeley competition! Tell us more about that! 

BigIdeas@Berkeley is a competition held annually at UC Berkeley, which helps fund students with research, business, or philanthropic ideas. I am partnering my Speech with Sam project with IndieGoGo, the crowdsource fundraising website, to design a one-year study that provides children in speech therapy the opportunity to use this game to supplement their speech therapy. The largest expenditure will be devices for children participating in the test.

What do you hope to do after graduate school?

I would like to join the industry as a computer engineering researcher. I would like to focus on human computer interaction research that focuses on hardware.