This past Friday I traveled to Boston for the 2011 Student Conference organized by the New-England Chapter of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. It was hosted at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, with a beautiful view of the Charles River Basin, shown in the figure above. Project54 had seven UNH graduate and undergraduate students in attendance: Zeliko Medednica, Shawn Bryan, Bobby Moore, David Filipovic, me, Josh Clairmont and Nicholas Sjostrom (from left to right in the image below).
Students from MIT, Tufts, Harvard, Bentley, UMASS and Northeastern University joined us to make student presentations or show posters of their studies. The student presentations were very interesting and ranged from studies with robot-assisted surgical settings to driving simulator experiments. The variety of topics kept us attentive throughout the whole day. The projects with topics on distractions in the driving simulators were especially interesting to me because they relate closely to my research.
I brought a poster, shown above, on Customer Subjective Evaluations of Speech-to-Text Applications. I conducted this evaluation to get a better understanding of currently deployed applications that allow users a safe texting while driving experience. I found that people really enjoy these applications and proactively work to make the road safer by using them. The dictation applications do not require the driver to look down and physically type a message. However they still distract the driver by requiring the user to look down to push buttons in order to start and finish sending a message. Overall these applications are a step in the right direction, but do not eliminate all the risks of texting while driving.
Sharing my poster with the other students, officers and sponsors gave me a great chance to hear outside opinions on my research. It also provided time to network with sponsors that came from Liberty Mutual, Charles River Analytics, Aptima Inc. and Volpe. One associate from each company gave a presentation summarizing the interesting aspects of their work. The keynote speaker, Richard Gardner provided a thought provoking presentation. As an Ergonomist and Technical Fellow at Boeing, he went over different ways he helped workers on the Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, shown in images above and below, find more comfort in their particular work environments. Some interesting examples of this is the use of leaning chairs to reduce neck and shoulder strain for workers under a wing, and a cushioned platform for workers reaching down into the plane.