Entry into the AT field:
September, 1995 (as an undergrad
student working on a thesis)
How I got into the
I was introduced to the field
through Dr. Geoff Fernie. I was looking for an undergraduate thesis topic while
in the 4th year of my Mechanical Engineering degree, and Dr. Fernie had a
project available on the design of AT to help elderly travellers. The topic
fascinated me for some reason and so I took it on. The rest is history as they
Important event(s) that influenced
my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
Learning about the AT field and in particular
about technology to support older adults from Dr. Fernie really set me on my
path. It was this initial encounter that got me interested in the field. Later
on in my graduate work I met an individual who was taking care of his wife who
had dementia. During this meeting he discussed the possibility of using
technology to support her at home. This discussion inspired me to further
develop my research into the use of technology and smart home systems for
people with dementia.
Why I chose the AT
I really wanted to apply my
engineering skills to an area that would help people. Immediately after
finishing my undergraduate degree I worked for Chrysler. Four months of that
convinced me that my engineering skills could be used in a better
My inspiration and
See answers above about Dr.
Why the field is important to me
and the central focus of my work
whole career and research program is centred around rehab engineering and AT.
All of my projects are about developing new technologies to help older adults
and their caregivers.
My memorable successes and
greatest contributions to the field
My initial work on the COACH prompting system for
older adults with dementia is really seen as one of the pioneering technologies
and research projects in my field. It is still references today and when I
travel people still bring it up with me as one of the inspirations for them to
also be in this field.
My greatest accomplishment would be the
training of new researchers and students in this field. I have trained over 50
new people, many of whom are still working in the field in some
My most memorable
Too many to describe.
Research is all about failures and learning from them.
Significant changes and advances
in the field since I first entered it
The biggest change that I have seen in the
increase in the use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology). When I
first came to RESNA, I was the only one presenting on the use of smart home
systems, artificial intelligence, etc and now it is all around!
The advances and use of new concepts from
computer science, such as artificial intelligence and computer vision have
really started to play a big role in the field of AT. These new advances are
allowing us to develop new and intelligent systems that are useable by a wider
variety of client.
On the future of rehabilitation
engineering and assistive technology
Robotics is starting to become pervasive in the AT
field and I feel will continue to play a more significant role as they become
cheaper and easier to obtain. Almost anyone today can buy a simple robot and
program it to do amazing things.
My role within RESNA and what it
gave back to me
I am now a Past
President of RESNA. RESNA has been my primary professional affiliation
throughout my career and has taught me not only invaluable lessons in the
fields of RE and AT, but also has helped me to learn and grow my leadership
skills. There are such wonderful people within the organization from whom I
have learned many a value lesson.
On the future of RESNA
RESNA needs to continue to play a significant
role in growing our field. RESNA has the capability to be a leader in the
development of new leaders in the field and in helping to establish a strong
My suggestions for those just
entering the field
Get involved as
much as possible. Your experiences in RESNA will only add value to your