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Designed to Make a Difference

Compassion is the key to good design in this engineering class.

A multidisciplinary team of students from the University of Pittsburgh continue to develop an Art of Making project designed to help hearing-impaired children experience music. Their work was featured the Fall 2020 Edition of Pitt Magazine.

The current team continued the project through the "Classroom to Community: Designing and Inventing for Real-World Impact" program established by Joseph Samosky, assistant professor of bioengineering. The group includes Jocelyn Dunlap, a 2019 communication sciences and disorders alumna; Natalie Neal, a 2020 materials science and engineering alumna; Jesse Rosenfeld, a 2020 mechanical engineering alumnus; Caroline Westrick, a senior bioengineering student; Dr. Joseph Samosky; Issam Abushaban, a senior computer engineering and bioengineering student; and Thomas Driscoll, a senior computer engineering student.


The little girl spins in a circle, bounces side to side, feet stomping and hands wiggling. She dances to the beat.

A special dance partner—a smiling plush monkey with elastic arms and a purple belly—hugs her neck. All around, her preschool classmates are dancing, too, copying the teacher’s steps as music fills the room.    

But these children aren’t hearing the music; they’re feeling it.

The students are from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD). The stuffed animals they embrace contain transducers, which convert the songs playing over the classroom’s speakers (and transmitted to the monkeys via Bluetooth) into palpable vibrations, helping the hearing-impaired youth groove to Bach or Beyoncé.

Click here to read the full PittMag story.

Author: Maya Best, Pitt Magazine

Contact: Leah Russell