Research and Engagement Grants


Sponsored by the GVU Center, Institute for People and Technology, and Georgia Tech Research Institute

Request for Proposals

Grants are designed to support two separate types of collaborations: Research Grants support seed funding for research, and Engagement Grants seek to grow new forms of internal and external community engagement and collaboration.


2021 Research and Engagement Grants


Court Eviction Data as a Boundary Object for Housing Work
Carl DiSalvo (Interactive Computing), Elora Raymond (City and Regional Planning), Anh-Ton Tran (Interactive Computing)

Atlanta has been one of the hardest hit U.S. cities for evictions. To better understand the situation the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank (FED), the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), and Georgia Tech have been scraping online court data portals to assess the eviction situation. This data is also being provided to a local activist organization, Housing Justice League. Public eviction data provides pieces of information on evictors in Atlanta but is primarily used to further disadvantage tenants. Eviction filings provide information that can often become overcounted and abused to extract financial capital. This data then gets funneled into credit score algorithms that makes it more difficult for tenants to find housing after evicted. This research will unpack the labor of eviction data. Interviews and observations will be conducted to understand all the ways in which this data is produced, articulated, and utilized across various housing actors. This work will reveal key insights to inform how to interpret and analyze the data. The second component of this work will involve critical making with the eviction data. Working alongside Housing Justice League, we will be continuing to build out their evictions dashboard that combines their eviction hotline data with the institutional court records. Evictions data then, is a boundary object; a means to form a civic common between housing actors that do not typically work together. By understanding the labor of eviction data and workshopping potential uses of the data, we aim to uncover how data may be design material for participatory design in digital civic contexts.

E-Textile Workshop Series
Lisa Marks (Industrial Design), Noah Posner (Industrial Design)

GVU is preparing to open an exciting new lab focused on the area of E-textiles. This lab focuses on a rapidly emerging field that will lead to technological innovation for wearables, home goods, healthcare, and transportation. To maximize this field’s potential, we must have students trained in both the hardware and coding as well as the fabric structure and making methods. This Engagement Grant will fund a series of 3 workshops (weaving, knitting, and CNC embroidery), each run 2 separate times. Each workshop will involve a discussion of the textile qualities and history, a hands-on demonstration and student creation of the textile, coding and implementation of electronic sensors, and a brainstorming session of potential uses of the methods covered in various fields. While the workshops will be fun and humorous, students will leave with concrete knowledge to bring back to their courses in Industrial Design, Human-Computer Interaction, Physics, Architecture, Computer Science, LMC, and Engineering. We hope to see you there!

Edge Computing for Bringing Smart Services to Underserved Urban Communities
Kishore Ramachandran (Computer Science), Ashutosh Dhekne (Computer Science), Manasvini Sethuraman (Computer Science), Anirudh Sarma (Computer Science)

We rely on the Internet for many everyday activities, including learning. The covid-19 pandemic has revealed, if not widened the cracks in internet connectivity. Several reports show that students in low-income neighborhoods are often disproportionately affected, and this is attributed, at least in part to the poor connectivity to the Internet. The Edge Computing paradigm moves compute and storage resources closer to the source of the computations, allowing for the development of decentralized software. This project investigates the possibility of using community WiFi networks in conjugation with the principles of edge computing, towards creating infrastructure that reduces reliance on the Wide area Internet for activities such as video conferencing and streaming online lessons. Some of the questions the project hopes to address include the study of information access patterns within a community, ease of use of new technology, computing within resource constraints and designing applications to handle intermittent connectivity to the Internet.



2020 Research and Engagement Grants


Sorting Through the Racks and CAPTCHAs: Exploring the Use and Regulation of Automation Tools by Communities of Online Fashion Resellers in 
Christopher Le Dantec (LMC), Robert Rosenberger (Public Policy), Sara Miles Espinosa (LMC)

We are starting a collaboration between Digital Media and Public Policy that explores how gig workers’ labor is enmeshed with automation tools in Poshmark is an online reselling platform for secondhand fashion that offers a social retail model, like social media for secondhand clothes. This grant from IPAT and the GVU Center will allow us to carry out interviews with various workers that belong to the Poshmark ecosystem as sellers, as virtual assistants that fill the roles automation would otherwise do, or as the programmers that offer the automation tools. According to the company, most sellers and buyers are women in the U.S and Canada. As many other platforms of the gig economy, Poshmark has many sellers looking for supplemental income while others derive their earnings fully from their sales on the platform. The use of automation by the sellers is a complex issue because it is against Poshmark’s Terms of Service (ToS), yet the site design requires high amounts of tedious clicking and routine interaction to maintain product visibility. The interviews will allow us to better understand how the different resellers on Poshmark justify the use of automation and work along the boundaries of the ToS. We hope this will contribute to shedding light into the complex ways contemporary laborers are navigating a work landscape that increasingly includes automation.

Electrochromic Skin: Exploring the Design and Fabrication of Epidermal Displays for Somatic Data-Awareness 
Sang Leigh (Industrial Design), W. Hong Yeo (Mechanical Engineering), Noah Posner (College of Design)

We explore an accessible and scalable fabrication method for soft printed displays—using a novel electrochromic material, PEDOT:PSS. The process could revolutionize existing forms of printed and wearable products; these include on-skin interfaces or textiles that can display digital information, and packagings, wallpapers or stickers that dynamically change their visual with minimal power consumption. We plan to deploy the technique in the form of a soft display microlab within the Interactive Product Design Lab (IPDL) at the College of Design, where students and researchers can create and customize printed displays using commercial inkjet printers and simple craft tools. We will explore various applications through design workshops involving students and researchers on campus, on the topics of epidermal health-tracking devices, smart packaging concepts for retail or food products, and apparels made with electrochromic textiles.

Healing Justice: Co-Designing for Black Communities
Susana Morris (LMC), Brooke Bosley (LMC)

During the summer of 2020, Black Americans faced a series of inequities from police brutality, to systemic racism, to COVID-19, all of which impacted Black communities at higher rates than other racial groups because of disparities in health and resources. Policies regarding defunding the police have been offered as solutions that could address racial inequity and injustice. Proponents of defunding legislation argue that reallocating funding from policing can allow funds to be reinvested in Black communities through entrepreneurship programs, mental health services, after school programs, and other resources that would offer community support. However, the language of defunding has faced much opposition, primarily because of misinformation and lack of clear explanation of what these policies truly mean for Black communities. As Black Media Studies Scholars, we seek to understand how this misinformation is trafficked on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Parler, and MeWe. The research project’s goals are threefold: to understand how proposed legislation on defunding the police tackles racial equity and justice, to analyze whether these defunding policies strengthen communities that are overpoliced (mainly Black neighborhoods), and to investigate how ideology online has impacted communities' perceptions around public safety.

COVID-19 and Child Maltreatment Through Two Different Lenses: Online Media and Official Administrative Reports
Diyi Yang (Interactive Computing), Lindsey Bullinger (Public Policy)

COVID-19 has profoundly changed all aspects of home and family life during most of 2020. Severe and sudden unemployment, school closures, and quarantining have created enormous challenges, particularly in the homes of children. Additional hardships may include public benefits office closures, limited hours for accessing essential services. These problems are also likely exacerbated among low-income families. Particularly in the lives of parents, social media plays a large role everyday life. For example, pre-pandemic, many parents used social networks and social media to exchange information, resources, and social support online. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the social distancing and lockdown orders have led to people spending even more time online. Given the current constraints with more traditional measures of child abuse and neglect (namely, fewer interactions with mandated reporters such as teachers), social media data can be leveraged to gain insight into how child well-being has fared during the pandemic. This research will combine social media data and administrative data on child maltreatment referrals to answer several research questions: (1) How has child exposure to violence changed during the COVID-19 pandemic according to social media data? (2) How do these online media data compare to administrative data on child maltreatment referrals? (3) How do these influences differ before and during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Developing a New Cellular-Based Sensor Platform for IoT/Smart Cities Projects
Russ Clark (Computer Science), Peter Presti (IMTC), Scott Gilliland (IMTC)

The networked LoRa-based processor board at the heart of the Sea Level Sensors Program has become a cornerstone of our IoT environmental sensing efforts. The field deployment and the data gathered is at the heart of a growing set of collaborations and projects across campus and in the community. Over the course of the project we have discovered a need for a low-powered cellular network-based sensor platform.  The goal of this work is to develop this new cellular platform that will fill a gap in our current toolkit for new projects and collaborations across campus and community partners.  The platform is designed to be easily modified, benefiting student projects and funded research alike. The resulting device will be customizable with a set of standardized off-the-shelf sensors to meet specific implementation requirements. Additionally, the targeted applications fit squarely in the UN sustainable development goals, especially that of Sustainable Cities and Communities, Good Health and Wellbeing, and Climate Action.

Going Pro: Bridging the Gap Between Georgia K-12 Students, STEM Education, and the E-Sports Industry
Laura Levy (IMTC), Sean Mulvanity (Bradwell Institute), Richard Catrambone (Psychology), Bryan Cox (GA Department of Education), Lien Diaz (Constellations Center)

Esports, or competitive video gaming, can be an effective way to motivate grade-school students in developing STEM skills and pursuing STEM fields. The most popular esports titles are team-based, placing high requirements on skills requiring communication, coordination, and compromise. Students excited by being a part of an esports team and community are likely to develop other skills, such as software and hardware engineering as well as web design and video editing, to supplement their play performance and contribute to their team in ways outside of playing the game. However, there remain barriers to entry for schools and students in implementing esports programs. While public sentiment on esports is changing for the positive, there can still be doubt and misunderstandings around the benefits for esports programs in school administrations, educators, parents, and students alike. Even for schools convinced by the beneficial impacts of esports programs, there can be confusion in how to navigate the evolving landscape of leagues, games, and equipment to purchase. Finally, and particularly for schools in rural Georgia, there is a lack of connection for schools and students with the state of the industry, which often manifests in misconceptions on what it means to pursue a STEM career in the games industry. This proposal focuses on rural and underserved communities in Georgia, to further the mission of service by Georgia Tech for educational outreach in the state. This project proposes a two part engagement with all virtual activities, to maintain safe best practices during COVID-19 while also maximizing our outreach to students that can benefit the most from this engagement but are located geographically far from Georgia Tech. Virtual interviews and focus groups with educators, students, and parents will inform the design and content of a virtual workshop with esports industry partners meant to help orient, educate, and provide resources for stakeholders across the state in the benefits and process of incorporating esports programs in K-12 schools.

Alone Together: Empowering Student Community Building and Content Engagement Through Digital Collaboration in Remote Learning 
Laura Levy (IMTC), Anne Sullivan (LMC)

The landscape of education delivery has dramatically changed due to COVID-19 with students and instructors doing their best to adapt to virtual learning formats. The speed and extent of changes to remote instruction during COVID-19 have presented a number of challenges and, as a result, many students express feelings of disconnectedness and have difficulties engaging with material in a remote format. Additionally, virtual formats primarily rely on a narrow range of evaluative assessments that can prevent students from expressing full mastery of course material and magnify impacts of accessibility issues already existing in traditional classroom settings (e.g. access issues for students with cognitive or perceptual disabilities). Video conferencing can be intimidating for unconfident students or for those where English is not their primary language, and many students may not have stable enough internet connections to be able to use video, voice, or even know if what they are seeing is in real time. Therefore, we propose to identify and analyze existing digital tools and their best practices that can be adopted to improve students’ sense of community, increase course material engagement, and provide alternative ways to demonstrate mastery. This proposed work seeks to produce timely knowledge on platforms and practices that better support student course engagement and feelings of connectedness during remote education. While the impetus for this work is COVID-19, the outcomes of this work can be useful beyond the pandemic and we hypothesize that they will be generalizable to other forms of remote education and remote collaboration in the workforce.



2019 Research and Engagement Grants


From #hashtags to Movements: Performance, Collective Narrative, and Erasure, a Black Feminist Perspective
Brooke Bosley and Susana Morris (Digital Media)

Workshop on Language, Technology, and Society
Lelia Glass (Modern Languages)

Getting Good: Using esports to inspire students in developing STEM skills
Laura Levy (IMTC), Andrew Partridge (GTRI), and Sean Mulvanity (GTRI)

Detecting and Measuring the Impact of Food Insecurity at Georgia Tech
Jon Sanford (Industrial Design) and Thomas Ploetz (Interactive Computing)

Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment 2019
Anne Sullivan (Literature, Media, and Communication) and Mark Riedl (Interactive Computing)

Acoustic Sensor Deployment in the EcoCommons
Emily Weigel (Biological Sciences), Adam Beteul (Atlanta Audobon Society), David Anderson (ECE), and Matthew Swarts (GTRI)



2018 Research and Engagement Grants


Wearable Technology and Society: Artistic Collaborations
Clint Zeagler and Jay Bolter

Wearable Technology and Society is a new course developed for the Georgia Tech School of Literature Media and Communication that will be taught in fall 2018. For the course the Computer Science and Computational Media students will work on transdisciplinary group projects in collaboration with local performance artists, making interactive wearable performance garments. This GVU / IPaT engagement grant funds materials and supplies for the students to be able to create richer experiences. Performance artists including dancers and drag queens will also keep the garments / costumes and use them to their fullest potential.

Creating Georgia Tech's Center for Computing and Society
Ellen Zegura, Carl DiSalvo, and Michael L. Best

The influence of computing is remarkable, and its future frequently touted as unbounded. Yet against this backdrop of unprecedented development lays sobering recent events in which computing has managed not to advance society, but instead to fray it. The time is right – indeed urgent – for computing as a diverse community to mature beyond today's whiz kid, shiny object, “move fast and break things” attitudes. The various disciplines that reflect on computing must grow up and take ownership of the many steps needed to mitigate negative impacts of research and development, as well as harness computing in service of pressing social problems. Towards these ends, we are working to create a Georgia Tech Center on Computing and Society: an emerging cross-disciplinary research initiative aiming for national and international leadership in understanding and advancing computing systems that are responsible and accountable to society.

Connecting Georgia Tech with the Future of E-Sports
Laura Levy and Anne Sullivan

Electronic sports, known as esports, have undergone a meteoric rise in popularity over the past several decades enabled by technological advances in network connectivity, game engines, and online streaming platforms. Over 300 million fans have streamed almost 300 million hours on the Twitch platform alone, and the global viewership is expected to top 380 million by the end of 2018. However, even with the rapid acceptance and legitimation of esports in popular culture, there are still many fundamental gaps in our understanding for how to support the user experience around it. In the same ways that traditional sports have been augmented and the fan experience enhanced by technology, esports have much to gain through human-computer interaction (HCI) research in supporting viewers. Barriers for capturing and supporting new and diverse audiences are significant, and it is necessary that this research be driven and founded through industry partnerships to be successful.

This engagement grant provides travel funding to support students in a Georgia Tech VIP class studying an esports HCI research thread to travel to a professionally produced esports tournament and expose them directly to the research questions they are studying, while allowing them to network with industry representatives that may lead to future career opportunities. Additionally, this grant benefits IPaT and Georgia Tech by increasing the Institute's presence at relevant industry events bringing home new contacts and funding opportunities with the greater games industry.”

The Mild Cognitive Impairment Empowerment Program's Innovation Accelerator: Building a Diverse Coalition of Students, Faculty and Researchers to Address Aging-Related Cognitive Impairment
Craig Zimring, Jennifer DuBose, Gabrielle Campiglia, Brian Jones, Brad Fain, and Herb Valasquez

Researchers from the SimTigrate Design Lab and IPaT have been working with Emory Brain Health to develop an “Empowerment Program” for people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition of deteriorated mental capacity that lies somewhere between the effects of normal aging and dementia. Georgia Tech is partnering with Emory's Brain Health Center in developing and implementing The Brain Health Village in Executive Park. The first phase of development will be an MCI day “Empowerment Program,” a patient-centered day program with activities and spaces designed to meet the specific needs of individuals with MCI and their care partners. Georgia Tech will contribute expertise about the how the design of spaces and technologies can make it easier for people with MCI to remain independent. As a part of the broader MCI Empowerment initiative, GT will lead an Innovation Accelerator component which will engage academic and research faculty to lead teams of students and persons with MCI to identify needs and explore creative solutions together through a multidisciplinary, co-design process. In many cases, solutions developed to support people with MCI may have broader applicability to other user groups, and the wider community interested in health, aging, and cognition. Through this seed grant, we seek to broaden involvement of other academic units, students, and researchers, expand the range of disciplines, extend discussion and partnerships to external stakeholders and industry, and strategize applications for additional funding in order to grow the potential impact of Georgia Tech's involvement in this MCI Empowerment program.

Understanding the Impact of VR for Engineering Analysis on Workplace Practice
Chris Le Dantec and Thomas Kurfess

Manufacturing workplaces are a site of intense change as technologies like IoT and AR/VR are beginning to make deep inroads into how complex products are engineered and assembled. These technologies - Google Glass, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift - are becoming prominent in manufacturing because they offer potential solutions to the problems of workforce shortages and a growing skills gap. As technologists, designers, and practitioners, it is critical that we understand how these classes of digital technologies stand to change organizations and the kinds of work people do. In partnership with GE Aviation - Human Factors and Maintainability group, this study explores the use of VR for engineering analysis in manufacturing and the impact of VR on the changing nature of work. By conducting a usability study with VR, we can document implementation efforts to augment human labor with automation and create guidelines for successful implementation and best use cases. The future of work relies on understanding how automation can enhance the worker experience and deliver results; putting people to work with technology instead of displacing them by technology.

Building Capacity for Sustainable, Interdisciplinary, Smart Campus Research: A Needs Analysis
Russ Clark and Matt Sanders



2016 Research and Engagement Grants


Passive Haptic Rehabilitation for Stroke
Thad Starner (Interactive Computing); Steve Wolf (Emory Rehab Medicine)

We aim to develop a low-cost, mobile, wearable device for Stroke rehabilitation. Over 5 million people are disabled by stroke each year. Current techniques for stroke rehabilitation are costly and time-consuming, require cumbersome machinery, access to clinicians, and put strain on patients. However, using our lightweight and mobile computerized gloves, patients may be able to get rehab on-the-go. In our initial work, we found that tactile stimulation, like vibration, can improve sensation and mobility when applied to the impaired hands of people with partial Spinal Cord Injury. We now apply this "Passive Haptic Rehabilitation" to stroke. Using this technique, these patients can simply wear a vibrating glove to stimulate their affected hand while they go about their daily life. After two months, function improved in those that wore the glove.

(T)racing Eyes and Hearts: An Installation to Explore the Physiology of Empathy
Anne Pollock (Literature, Media and Communication); Lewis Wheaton (Applied Physiology); Nassim JafariNaimi (Literature, Media and Communication)

Eyes darting, or maintaining a steady gaze straight ahead. Heartbeat racing, or maintaining a slow, even rhythm. If we encounter these phenomena in another, how do we respond – not just affectively, but physiologically? Eye movements and heartbeats are among the most intuitively meaningful physiological characteristics that humans observe in one another. Without necessarily consciously realizing it, we often respond empathetically. This project brings together humanities scholars and physiology scholars to create an art installation that uses representation, tracking, and visualization to investigate and reflect upon the physiology of empathy. The installation renders video of eye movements and audio of heartrate of a virtual person, and tracks the eye movements and heartrate of an observing user. We anticipate a mirroring, empathetic physiological response from the user, in which their heartrate also speeds and slows in conjunction with the virtual person. Immediately after the experience, the user will be provided a visual and auditory representation of the data, in order to see and reflect on this empathetic engagement, and also provided with a link to a copy of the video by email if they so choose. The playback could be either in real time, or in a time that is set to either the virtual person or the user's heartrate as a metronome, to allow a distinctively human-centered exploration of the data.

Collision of Creatives
Laura Levy (IMTC), Maribeth Gandy (IMTC), Clint Zeagler (WCC), Madison Cario (Arts@Tech), Lane Conville-Canney (Arts@Tech)

The arts can be a natural and effective showcase to demonstrate the potential of cutting-edge and advanced technologies. However, there often exist barriers in access, communication, and collaboration between artists and technologists. With a thoughtful plan to bring artists and technologists together in collaborative workshops, this engagement grant will offer opportunities for artists to learn about engineering and technology creative processes, while also allowing experts in engineering and technology to see first-hand what artists need to relate to broad audiences in site-specific locations in their process and practice. This project aims to make effective Dr. Bolter's quote that "the arts are the tip of the HCI sword" by enabling effective communication, creating useful artifacts, and engaging the Georgia Tech community to catalyze processes by technologists and artists in showcasing the work happening here on campus.


Previous Grant Recipients