Grant Will Develop "Around the Clock" Technology for Special Needs Kids
A team of engineers and students from Kansas State University recently received a 3-year, $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further develop technologies, and better establish a link between nighttime wellness and daytime learning and behavior.
The around-the-clock technology developed by the engineers include bed-based sensors to track child breathing and heart rates, wearable sensors to track child behaviors, and designs that can improve the quality of life for paraeducators who work with these children.
According to a media release from Kansas State University, the project, called “UNS: GARDE: Research to Quantify the Health and Development of Children with Disabilities Around the Clock,” is a collaboration between professors and students in Kansas State University’s College of Engineering with Wichita, Ks-based therapeutic residential and day school program Heartspring Inc.
In essence, the NSF grant will help the Kansas State University team to expand on their existing technologies to develop more effective nighttime and daytime monitoring tools, acquire data from selected Heartspring children in their residential apartments, and use these data to establish linkages between nighttime well-being and daytime learning and behavior, the release explains.
“While relationships between sleep quality and daytime performance are well-characterized for neurotypical children, these relationships are not well-known for severely disabled, autistic children, many of whom are nonverbal and have multiple co-existing disabilities,” says Steve Warren, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the project’s leader, in the release.
“Polysomnographs used for traditional sleep studies require electrodes, wires and equipment that are not suitable for these children. We seek alternative nighttime tools that, once hidden in a child’s bed and bedroom, can provide effective surrogate data when compared to traditional polysomnographs,” he adds.
Team member Bala Natarajan, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Kansas State University, states in the release that, “In contrast to existing approaches, the goal of our effort is to measure sleep quality and daytime well-being by exploiting advanced signal processing algorithms and fusion of information from multiple low-cost noninvasive sensors. The ease of deployment and portability of the sensor suite greatly increases the likelihood of this technology reaching the homes of children with special needs.”
Roots of this project grew during senior engineering design courses at the university, as well as a previous NSF grant that provided material and equipment funds for senior design projects geared toward children with severe disabilities and their caregivers. Kansas State University students designed customized devices informed by the needs of the Heartspring children, the release explains.
[Source: Kansas State University]