Lassonde Talkbox team wins top prize at Toronto Maker Faire

A team from the Lassonde School of Engineering received a top prize at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire – the city’s biggest festival celebrating makers and the things they make.

The TalkBox team was named the winners of the Bridge the Gap prize.

This project been undertaken by faculty and students from the GaMaY Lab at Lassonde in collaboration with Ray Feraday, who is a Special Education teacher with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, a maker, and an innovator of technology use in the classroom.

The Lassonde students leading the project were Computer Science graduate researchers Foad Hamidi and Brandon Haworth and Computer Engineering undergraduate Toni Kunic, together with the “Devices 4 Disabilities” student club at YorkU supervised by Lassonde professor Melanie Baljko.


TalkBox is a low-cost Speech Generating Device (SGD), a device that helps individuals communicate and engage in social interactions.

The Bridge the Gap prize given to Talkbox by design firm Bridgeablerecognized the Maker who demonstrated:

  1. Strong, purpose-driven work to address a real human need.
  2. Creativity in bridging the gap between research and design, concept and prototype, or between material or technology and execution.
  3. Ability to clearly communicate vision behind their creation and its benefits.

The Talkbox project has several goals:

  • Empowerment: to provide a low-cost open-source, open-hardware Speech Generating Device (aka “SGD”) and other assistive technologies to the community, so that those who need such devices can more easily obtain them.  To empower more individuals who have disabilities be makers themselves. To create an ecosystem of making that provides employment opportunities for high school students who have developmental disabilities.

  • Community: to build a community of knowledge and practice around maker approaches to assistive technologies. This includes create rich experiential learning experiences for undergraduate students in the Lassonde School of Engineering and other undergraduate programs.

  • Innovation: to make use of new modes of academic-community collaboration. To provide a maker-based mode in the ecology of technology distribution for SGDs and other assistive technologies (which includes the mode provided by Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program). To enrich the body of scholarship that is concerned with the field of Assistive Technology.  To mobilize knowledge outputs from academic research into active use in the community.

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