Autism App Jam 2014 – DanceCraft


I am participating in this year’s Autism App Jam on team DanceCraft. Find out more on my team’s website:

EAPSI 2014

cloth fish flying in hiroshima
At the Hiroshima Flower Festival 2013. Photo Credit: Severn Ringland.

In the fall of 2013, I applied for the NSF’s East Asia Summer Institute Program and was accepted February 3, 2014. The abstract to my proposal:

While there are a variety of available Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices available for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States, these devices are infrequently found for users in Japan especially in their native language. A culturally appropriate AAC system for use with Japanese children will be designed using participatory design workshops with stakeholders from Hiroshima University. During this project she will come to better understand the process of designing assistive technology as it occurs between local stakeholders in Japan and American researchers and to create a framework to help facilitate this kind of work in the future.

Click here for a full version of my proposal.

Last Updated: April 3, 2014

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Minecraft Study

Screen shot of sunset and a volcano in Minecraft
Sunset and a volcano in Minecraft


My name is KateRingland and I am a PhD student in Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. I will be conducting observations of players in Minecraft. For the most part, this will just look like I’m playing the game like everyone else. However, I will be taking notes of my experiences and possibly screen shots. I will not be recording any identifiable information. I will not record any real names or real screen names. If I take a screen shot, I will blur out anything that would identify an individual player.

What are you looking for during your observations? I am mostly just watching to see how players on Minecraft interact. I would also like to explore the various ways in which players communicate during game play. I am hoping this research leads to helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a supportive, fun environment to play in.

I am now conducting interviews! Find out more information HERE.

Please email me at kringlan [at] uci [dot] edu if you have any questions.


Our first paper from this project is published at Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) 2015, titled ‘Making “Safe”: Community Centered Practices in a Virtual World Dedicated to Children with Autism’.

Last Updated: June 1, 2015.

Clothing Tags for Individuals with Visual Impairments

Kate at UMBC SURF Poster Session
August 8, 2012. UMBC SURF Poster Session

Self expression through clothing is inherently visual and is not readily accessible to those with visual impairments. Presently, the best method for conveying information is with high-tech devices that identify fabric colors, but don’t give information about pattern, graphics, washing instructions, or style. Designing clothing tags for the visually impaired user requires that the tags be discreet, comfortable, easy to locate, and that it be reasonably simple to retrieve information from them. With this study we contribute a collection of tagging systems that can be used in future research for the development and testing of fully functional tagging systems that will empower visually impaired users when making clothing decisions.

Ringland, Kathryn. “Accessible Clothing Tags: Designing for Individuals with Visual Impairments”.CHI 2013. Paris, France. May 2013.*

Williams, M., Ringland, K., Hurst, A. “Designing an Accessible Clothing Tag System for People with Visual Impairments”. ASSETS 2013. Bellevue, WA. October 2013.*

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Many children with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, have sensory processing disorders (SPD), which can lead to inappropriate behaviors and impairments. One therapeutic approach to the kinds of SPD frequently observed in children with neurodevelopmental disorders involves the use of a variety of tools including objects with various textures and tactile sensations, mirrors, and Multisensory Environments (MSE) saturated with visual and audible stimuli and specialized equipment for sensory stimulation. However, children with SPD each have a unique prescription for the amount of stimulation they require for the therapy to be effective. MSE must be physically altered before each child receives therapy.

Traditional Multisensory Environments uses mirrors, lights, and objects with different tactile feedback.
Colored rubber balls of different sizes.
Various sizes and colors of balls used in SensoryPaint.

SensoryPaint is an interactive surface with the capability of superimposing the user’s reflection on a projected surface and “painting” this surface with balls of different textures and colors, which was designed to augment traditional therapies. This software uses a Kinect to detect the movements of the user and the balls. The user’s image is reflected on the screen, as well as their shadow superimposed on their reflection. SensoryPaint is a software originally developed at CICESE in Ensenada, Mexico.

Mode with painting and splashes.
Coloring Book Mode with the user using two different colors to fill in the strawberry shape.

Initial studies of the SensoryPaint system are focused on uncovering the potential of this technology to support sensory integration, including stimulus sensitivity, body awareness, motor functioning, and attention and engagement.

Ringland, K.E., Zalapa, R., Neal, M., Escobedo, L., Tentori, M., and Hayes, G.R. “SensoryPaint: A Multimodal Sensory Intervention for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders”. Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, ACM (2014).

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Winter Update, Grad School News

Hello! Here’s just a quick update from me. The first 6 months of my graduate school experience has just flown by. I’m now in my second week of winter quarter. Phew!

First, I want to just make an observation about my experience so far before I get into the news segment of this post. I have had moments of sheer anxiety and insecurity, but those seem to be balanced out with moments of happy triumph. An email I received recently really sums up why there is this oscillation of confidence. The contents of the email were along the lines of “You have a really awesome idea, I’m impressed with you. Why aren’t you talking more in class? You should sit in the front row.” And this is what grad school is all about: small moments of celebration followed by many moments of pushing you to the next level. I’m learning to treasure my little celebrations and embrace all the criticism because it’s going to make me a much stronger person in the long run.

Talking more in class discussion? I’ll save that subject for a different blog post.

Onto the news!

My team submitted a project to the iConference Social Media Expo competition and made it to the final round. We will be flying to Berlin the first week of March to present our work. My favorite part of the project was editing together the video for it. You can see the video and read our abstract on my portfolio page.

I also presented my poster at ASSETS 2013 in October for work I did on the Clothing Tagging Systems for the Visually Impaired. While I probably won’t be doing further work on this project, I got a lot of valuable feedback. The experience I gained from this project has influenced much of the work I am currently doing and will be doing in the future.

I have a couple more projects in the works that I’m excited to share with everyone when they are a little further along. Stay tuned!

Competitive Edge 2013, Week 3- Figuring this Whole Grad School Thing Out

As I slowly settle into the area, a lot of exciting things are happening with my summer project. The biggest excitement being I actually picked a research project. I’ll give you a hint: it’s something to do with this cool system called SensoryPaint. Now comes the fun/hard part where I actually have to get all the work done!

This last week I visited the Autism Center that is affiliated with our school. I heard a great lecture on another project called MOSOCO. I met some fantastic folks and I’m slowly but surely getting oriented with my landscape.

I also went to a housewarming party out in Long Beach. I hadn’t been there (at least as far as I can remember) and it was cool to see a different area for a bit. I’ve been pretty limited in my range of movement here in Irvine. I have been spending most of my time between my apartment and the campus and haven’t explored much beyond that. I am feeling like this is okay though, because there is lots of time in the future for more exploration. I will admit though, there is a yarn shop about 10 minutes’ drive from my place that I am very tempted to go check out.

Now I will discuss my Week 3 takeaway message: Grad school is a very socially intensive environment. If you are anything like me and are used to just chilling in front of your computer getting your work done, minding your own business, then grad school is going to be a shock. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been a little social with friends and outings. But I am not used to be “on” all the time. It’s very exhausting. Everyone you meet is potentially an important future resource or contact. As a brand new student, you feel the overwhelming need to impress everyone or at least try not to fall flat on your face where possible. So, on top of trying to figure out projects, apply to fellowships, learn a whole new town, there is the stress of being a happy, easy going personality.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually enjoying the entire process. I actually don’t mind this kind of stress too much and I’m loving all my lab mates- they are awesome, helpful people (we even all go to the gym together). I feel really lucky in a lot of ways. But I do have to remember to allow myself downtime and “off” days where I can relax.

I just mention all this because I was not warned. I think that if I had someone giving me advice and information about grad school, I would have liked to know about this. It wouldn’t have deterred me, but I possibly could have been a little more prepared.

This coming week is going to be hard. I am planning out my summer project, working on the IRB form (more on that later), presenting my project to the group, and also planning a proposal for NSF GRFP for Competitive Edge. Even if I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed, I’m actually in a really happy place. I’m doing what I want to be doing and, more than anything else, I am feeling fortunate to be here.

Getting Started, Competitive Edge 2013

This summer I am participating in a program at the University of California, Irvine called Competitive Edge. The aims of the program are to give minority (and women) incoming graduate students a “competitive edge” on their Ph.D. programs.

After a successful drive from Washington down to southern California, we settled into our new home in campus housing adjacent to the UCI campus. One benefit of the Competitive Edge program is the early move in for the student housing. We had a couple days to acclimate before I started my program. This was spent mostly setting up house and trying to get used (mostly unsuccessfully thus far) to the heat.

A highway going through dry land.
Road to Irvine, CA.

The first day of the program was orientation, including a campus tour, luncheon, and a ropes course. Yes, a ropes course. Most of the folks back home would probably have a hard time imagining me up on a ropes course because, honestly, heights really aren’t my thing. But it happened. And I even did the zipline at the end.

Competitive Edge Students gathered near the ropes course.
Competitive Edge Students gathered near the ropes course.
Group of students at ropes course.
Competitive Edge Students after the ropes course.

Each week, the Competitive Edge will be holding workshops to help us make the most of our grad school experience. So far, I have attended workshops on Research Resources, various informational sessions on the types of fellowships available, a workshop on the Ford Foundation fellowship, and a session outlining the NSF GRFP. From here on out, the workshops get more specific into the application process. We will be getting feedback on our essays, proposals, CVs, and even on how we give presentations. At the end of the program, on August 15, we will each be giving a 10 minute presentation on our research at the Research Symposium. All in all, this program is definitely designed to make us much stronger graduate students.

The rest of the week I get time to do research in my own lab. I am a member of the Star Group in LUCI. I will be working on researching assistive technology for those with Autism. This past couple weeks, I have been doing background reading and getting settled in the lab. I will be working with a great group of people in my lab (everyone is really friendly and more than willing to collaborate) and I’m excited to really start working.

On Getting Into Grad School, Part 4

Did you miss Part 3?

March 2013: UC Irvine Visit and THE Decision

After leaving Boulder and hearing what students there had to say about their school, I was more inclined to accept Irvine’s offer. I wasn’t going to say with 100% certainty until I had visited the school and made sure I clicked with the people there, but based on the research that was happening and what I heard from others, Irvine was the way to go.

It did not take me long to feel like my initial instincts were correct. I got off the plane and already felt like I had come home. Now, I had to be cautious, because in a lot of respects, I had come home. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Southern California. I had decided that Kyle, my husband, needed to come with me on this visit. If this was going to be our home for the next 5+ years, I wanted to make sure it was going to work for him. He was not as impressed at first as I was. I knew what he meant about it not being “green”. The Pacific Northwest is definitely a lot greener, but I think that’s probably not the best reason to turn down a grad school offer. J  I also have to say the women huddled around the hot chicken case at the Whole Foods because it was under 70 degrees outside was extremely humorous.

When I checked us into the hotel, I was given a “goodie” bag with snacks and a folder full of information about the school and department. I think the snacks were a really great touch, even though I couldn’t eat most of them. I did enjoy the pudding cup and the Star Wars gummies. The information packet was definitely overwhelming. It had lots of information on what research was going on and other facts about the school. It also contained a hardcopy of my acceptance and award letter. There was also a schedule for Friday, which included what professors I was going to interview with.

Thursday night we had a dinner with the current Informatics grad students. It was great waiting in the hotel lobby and meeting up with some of the people I had met in Boulder. Already knowing a couple people made the whole experience slightly less daunting. The current grad students picked us up and we had a big dinner together. I got to meet my roommate that I will be staying with in Paris for CHI. I also met other students who I would potentially be working with in the future. And apparently my reputation preceded me because at least one of them already knew of me. I am going to admit, it was completely surprising, but also felt pretty good.

I came back to the hotel feeling very excited for the next day. If the grad students were any measure, I was really going to like this place. I’m going to admit, it was hard to share these experiences with Kyle and give him a good sense of how I was feeling. I think my excitement (and exhaustion) was pretty obvious though.

The next day, Friday, I got up early and had breakfast with Kyle. I then waited for the shuttle to take me over to the school. Apparently, there was some confusion and only have of the prospective students had signed up for a ride, so the whole day started a little more slowly than anticipated. We drove straight to the Bren School of Information and Computer Science. I received an additional packet of information that was more general to the entire School. The morning was spent going over all the great things about the school, “the second happiest place on earth” (after Disneyland, of course). Then we broke down into subgroups of Informatics, Computer Science, and Statistics. We spent more time talking about the Informatics department specifically. I learned about the degree, what kinds of courses I would be taking, the research, how the department operates. One of the things that really caught my attention (and this had come up at the grad student dinner as well) was that there seemed to be a lot of collaboration and cooperation. It didn’t feel like there was negative competition, it was more like everyone was trying to help everyone else out. That’s the sort of environment I was looking for.

Then I got to meet with three professors. While they all had really interesting research that I could see myself working on, I knew as soon as Dr. Gillian Hayes told me about the Autism Research Center, I was hooked. This was the sort of assistive tech research that I wanted to be doing. I told her in the interview that I was set to come to Irvine straight away. How soon could I start working?


I feel extremely fortunate that things have worked out this way. I feel lucky that I found a department that feels good and an advisor that I felt an immediate connection to. I know the road ahead will be challenging, but I’m happy that I chose this road or that this road chose me. However that works out.

ASSETS 2012 Conference

To be honest, I started this blog immediately after I returned from the ASSETS 2012 conference, but everything else in this semester got away from me and I didn’t post it. I’m on winter break now, so I am finally able to catch up on things.

I have finally returned home from my journey to Boulder, Colorado. Firstly, we drove. We should have realized what a crazy idea this was when we stood in a room full of Ringlands, told them our plan to drive down to Boulder and back in a week, and no one even batted an eye.

Family eating lutefisk dinner.
Some of the Ringlands eating at the lutefisk dinner in Poulsbo.

With a belly full of lutefisk (because nothing says the start to a great road trip than unending plates of lefse and lutefisk) we left Poulsbo, WA to arrive 36 hours later in Boulder, CO. I’m going to admit upfront that I missed the keynote Monday morning.  We rolled into the hotel as the address was about half-way over.  If only we hadn’t stopped for that 2 hours of sleep in Rawlins, Wyoming!

First impressions:

*ASSETS is much, MUCH smaller than any other conference I have attended (less than 100 people versus a couple thousand plus).  This allowed me to get to know a lot of the people there.

*ASSETS is a single-track deal.  This was great!  I didn’t have to choose between two awesome papers.  Everything is in one room.  With the exception of the keynote, I didn’t have to miss any of the conference.

*It’s really nice having such a close-knit, small community.  People were super enthusiastic not only about their own projects, but other people’s work and were very willing to get in there and give each other ideas.

There was a lot of really fantastic work presented at the conference.  It ranged from web accessibility to assistive tech hardware to biofeedback interfaces. The populations being worked with were quite varied from physically disabled to the elderly to the visually impaired and so on. I think the most heartening thing about the conference was to see how much great work is being done to help people.

The grad student I worked with on my DREU project, Michele A. Burton, gave her presentation on the accessible fashion we had been working on. She did a fantastic job. I very much wish to follow in her footsteps.

Boulder itself was absolutely beautiful. I had the opportunity to visit the campus and see the Human-Centered Computing Lab there. It was great to meet some of the students and see what projects they are working on. This is definitely one of my top choices for graduate schools.

We got 5 inches of snow just as the conference was ending. It forced us to stay an extra day, but it was worth it.

Snowy creek and trees.
A creek near our hotel in Boulder, CO.