Seniors Awarded for Taking Innovation to the Next Level

Being a power for good strengthened the bond among Nataliia Kulieshova ’23, Youri Lee ’23 and Dayan Battulga ’23. Together, the friends created Signisa, a sign language learning application, to help improve communication between the deaf and hearing communities. 

The app was a winner in the Equity in Action category in the prestigious 2022 Changemaker Challenge organized by T-Mobile.

The students’ advisor, John Chiodo, director of innovation, engineering and computer science, couldn’t be more proud. “When you consider that they competed against thousands of students in hundreds of teams from around the world, to be one of only five teams selected in their venture category is outstanding,” he said.

The trio was awarded $5,000 in seed money and an all-expenses paid trip this past summer to the T-Mobile headquarters in Bellevue, Washington for networking and mentorship opportunities. Lee made the trip to represent the team. He enjoyed discussing projects with other student winners and meeting company executives for their advice.

“The acknowledgment we received has brought confidence in our mission and motivated us to run towards our vision,” Lee explained.

“It means that people believe in us and our idea, and that even the big tech giant T-Mobile sees our potential for success,” Kulieshova added.

Three years ago, Kulieshova met a young deaf person from her native Ukraine who expressed the hardships faced when trying to communicate at hospitals or with the police in addition to the challenges of daily interaction at stores and on mass transit. “Her story inspired me to make a change in my community and I thought that my knowledge of computer science could be convenient here,” Kulieshova shared.

After enrolling at Masters, she realized the communication problem between the hearing and the deaf was a global one. Kulieshova enlisted the help of classmates Lee, of Korea, and Battulga, of Mongolia, for their business and programming skills and soon Signisa was born.

With the app, they hope to increase sign language fluency through free, accessible courses that will incorporate hand detection through machine learning and computer vision tech to help users learn sign language with ease. 

The three entrepreneurial seniors have dreams of expansion beyond the immediate goal of publishing the app. “We definitely see ourselves working on this after we graduate from Masters,” said Battulga. “We managed to communicate and hold meetings during the summer internationally so I don’t think it will be hard to stay in touch with each other while we’re in college.”

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