Using Technology to Better People’s Lives

The idea first came to Travis Smith from a friend’s brother who has a speech disorder. Smith saw how he used a pricey app on an equally pricey iPad to communicate with other people, and a haunting question popped into Smith’s head.

“What about people who aren’t as fortunate?” he says. 

That’s when Smith, who is now an adjunct professor of information technology and management at Illinois Tech, got to work. Using a Raspberry Pi 3, a touch screen, a battery pack, and a speaker, he built a text-to-speech application in Python that’s free to use, open source, and can be used without internet access.

“My whole goal with this is to get this in the hands of people who are in third-world countries who don’t have internet,” he says. “This can be packaged up and shipped out, and they can use it right out of the box.”

Smith built the prototype as part of an undergraduate research project overseen by Information Technology and Management Adjunct Instructor Vasilios “Billy” Pappademetriou, who advised Smith and purchased the hardware needed for the project.

“I wanted to make something that actually made a physical, tangible difference in people's lives,” Smith says. “And I feel like this kind of encompasses all of that and everything I really wanted to do.”

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