Selina GabrieleComputer science grad Selina Gabriele plans to launch her real-time transcription tool next year at the University of Windsor.

Students’ award-winning start-up to make learning more accessible

If necessity is the mother of invention, Selina Gabriele is its doting aunt.

The recent UWindsor computer science grad drew inspiration from her six-year-old nephew, Tanner, in designing an award-winning tool that transcribes speech to text in real time. Called AidaNote, the software will help hearing-impaired students like Tanner pursue post-secondary education.

Here’s how it works: a professor outfitted with a microphone starts a session on the cloud-based program. As the professor speaks, a student logged into the session would see the spoken words transcribed onto his or her laptop or device.

The transcript could be produced in high or low contrast or exported to a braille machine.

Hearing-impaired students rely on other people to take notes for them.

“It’s hard to get note takers,” Gabriele said. “We want to essentially replace that.”

Gabriele said AidaNote would be offered through Accessibility Services to students with a disability accommodation. There would be a fee, but students could use their $2,000 annual disability grant to purchase the service.

Gabriele said she will consult a focus group in January to refine the service and its fee structure. She plans to have a soft launch in the spring, market the service over the summer, then launch it in the fall on campus using the University of Windsor as the pilot site.

AidaNote won the RBC Epic Business Model Canvas Competition held at the University of Windsor earlier this month. Gabriele had already brought on software developer Stevan Ljuljdurovic so she could focus on the business end, but the $10,000 prize has allowed her to hire another software developer. The grand prize also earned her another six months of dedicated office space in UWindsor’s EPICentre where she has worked since May as part of the Libro Social Innovators Program.

AidaNote also won the two other prizes up for grabs in the RBC competition — $750 from accounting firm KPMG for financial competence and $2,000 in advertising from Postmedia for Gabriele’s live pitch during the finals.

Wen Teoh, venture start director at EPICentre, said Gabriele is the latest in a long line of UWindsor students who have founded successful businesses.

“EPICentre produces a lot of award-winning entrepreneurs,” she said.

AidaNote’s win at the RBC Epic Business Model Canvas Competition automatically qualifies Gabriele for Canada’s Business Model Competition in Halifax early next year.

—Sarah Sacheli

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