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Texas State team wins US Ignite, GigaTECHs app competition

By Jack McClellan
Office of Media Relations
October 6, 2017

A team led by several Texas State University professors, from across academic disciplines, won the top prize in the US Ignite and City of Austin’s GigaTECHs App competition for its proposal that uses virtual reality to help train emergency medical services personnel.

Scott Smith and Mark Trahan, School of Social Work; Vangelis Metsis and Dan Tamir from the Department of Computer Science; Grayson Lawrence from the School of Art and Design; and George Koutitas from the Ingram School of Engineering, will assist with developing the application. Students in computer science and graphic design will work on the project as well.

“This research effort will highlight the importance of these collaborative relationships and how these partnerships are critical toward developing evidence-based practice,” said Smith, director of the Virtual Reality Technology Lab at Texas State.

The cross-disciplinary team, called Just in Time VR, developed its application proposal to address a significant problem in emergency response preparedness: personnel need practical experience to best respond to emergencies, but the only time such experience is gained is during emergencies, which rarely occur. The team realized that virtual reality could augment training and allow emergency personnel to acquire practical experience without a real-life emergency.

“The Virtual Reality Lab developed a proposal for the Department of Human Services to develop VR training for first responders and firefighters,” Smith said. “This team included multiple disciplines and Dr. Ted Lehr, who is an IT data architect for the city of Austin. Ted connected some of his colleagues with myself and Grayson, because they were interested in developing training for EMS on the AMBUS system. We began to meet and collaborate on a number of ideas and decided to develop a proposal for certain funding mechanisms to develop a pilot prototype.”

The AMBUS system is a bus-sized ambulance used by EMS personnel during emergencies.

The GigaTECHs competition, part of a nation-wide initiative led by Washington D.C.-based US Ignite, invited civic-minded app developers and entrepreneurs to develop next generation Gigabit Internet applications that provide transformative public benefit.

Additional members of Just in Time VR were: Marbenn Cayetano, IT business systems analyst with the city of Austin; Keith Noble, EMS commander with the city of Austin; and Charles Purma, manager of information systems and business enterprises with the city of Austin.

About Texas State University

Founded in 1899, Texas State University is among the largest universities in Texas with an enrollment of 38,694 students on campuses in San Marcos and Round Rock. Texas State’s 181,000-plus alumni are a powerful force in serving the economic workforce needs of Texas and throughout the world. Designated an Emerging Research University by the State of Texas, Texas State is classified under “Doctoral Universities: Higher Research Activity,” the second-highest designation for research institutions under the Carnegie classification system.

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