Entry for:2020 Queensland Women in STEM Prize
I undertake participatory design, which means designing technology with rather than for the people who will use it.
The main groups I work with are young Deaf children, and Autistic adults. When designing with young Deaf children, we aim to create technologies which solve problems Deaf children, their families and teachers experience in daily life - things like school readiness and literacy. When designing with Autistic adults, we are trying to design social robots to undertake therapies and educational activities with Autistic children.
Participatory design democratises the creation of new technologies, by putting power in the design process into the hands of people who might otherwise be overlooked. It results in the creation of technologies which address the specific needs of these populations, but which are also usable by the population at large.
The process of designing technologies with young Deaf children can increase the availability of Auslan (Australian Sign Language) resources for the Queensland Deaf community; and can in turn help to improve school readiness, educational outcomes, and employment possibilities for Deaf people within the Queensland community. It may also help to inspire an interest in STEM careers for the children involved in participatory design activities.
Designing therapeutic and educational social robots for Autistic children with Autistic adults can help to ensure that the therapies being undertaken are useful, not unpleasant and address needs identified by Autistic adults in their daily lives. This would also help to improve the school readiness, educational outcomes, and employment possibilities of Autistic people in Queensland.
I have been recognised internationally for my expertise in designing with young Deaf children, and have been invited to present on the topic in Australia, Edinburgh, and at the international conference SIGGRAPH Asia 2019.
In addition to my participatory design work with children, I was also very involved in the early days of the Tech Girl Movement, an initiative which started with the first Tech Girls are Superheroes book. I wrote a chapter in the first book, If, about a superhero with technopathy powers. The intention of the book was to get girls interested in STEM careers by highlighting women working in tech careers, and showing a different side of "geekiness", with tech skills shown as super powers. I worked as a social media moderator and content curator for the Tech Girls are Superheroes Facebook page.
I also, in my role as a lecturer in the School of IT & Electrical Engineering at the University of Queensland, strive to provide my female students with a role model. I also try to ensure a gender balance in my tutoring teams, to again provide female role models within the classrooms.
Finally, I was invited to provide a video presentation about being an academic to school children in the USA.