Ryan Hait-Campbell, who with three other students at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf helped start a business intended to help communication between deaf and hearing people, was named Deaf Youth Ambassador by the National Association of the Deaf during their recent convention in Atlanta.
“I am very honored that I won and I will do my best to push for a deaf accelerator program for start-up businesses,” he said.
Two Deaf Youth Ambassadors – a male and a female – were chosen, and will work with NAD to address a social issue within the deaf community. They will also represent NAD at presentations, workshops, the Youth Leadership Camp and other events in the community.
Elena Maer, of St. Louis, Mo., was selected female Deaf Youth Ambassador. Two other contestants were RIT/NTID students: Allison Friedman, an applied liberal arts major from Wheeling, Ill., and Keith Delk, a new media design major from Beach Park, Ill. Established by Congress nearly 50 years ago, NTID provides unparalleled support services for more than 1,250 deaf and hard-of-hearing students annually, with tutors, notetakers and more than 120 interpreters who support students in and out of the classroom.
Hait-Campbell said he wants to use the experience he’s gained in starting a business to help other fledgling companies started by deaf entrepreneurs.
“I entered the contest because there are very few deaf-run businesses out there and there are some amazing contests all over,” he said. “However, the problem I’ve noticed is that after those contests are over, the teams don’t really have any idea what to do next.”
Hait-Campbell, a new media design major from Seattle, Wash., helped form MotionSavvy, which uses new technology that may convert hand shapes into text. He won third place in the Next Big Idea competition at NTID in 2013, along with his MotionSavvy teammates Alex Opalka, a computer engineering major from Glastonbury, Conn.; Wade Kellard, a mechanical engineering technology major from Cincinnati, Ohio; and Jordan Stemper, an industrial design major from Waukesha, Wisc.
Last summer, the team was accepted into RIT’s Summer Start-Up course for new businesses at RIT’s Saunders College of Business. And they’ve spent the past few months in San Francisco in Leap Motion’s LEAP AXLR8R. Leap technology is used in their concept that may translate sign language into text by reading hand shapes. The team is considering returning to Rochester as their technology grows.
Hait-Campbell said he originally attended the NAD convention to promote MotionSavvy. “But everyone there already knew about us and I didn’t see a point in presenting about it, so I aimed to make us more active in the deaf community by becoming one of the leaders and pitch about the process of how I’m just a graphic designer, but now I’m also running a business. But I could never have done it on my own. It’s because of Saunders Start-up and the accelerator program that I am here. I am forever thankful to RIT for giving me this opportunity to change the world.”
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