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Course innovates with Wii

Adam Llorens | Friday, February 18, 2011

Notre Dame’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering prides itself on keeping pace with the fast-moving technological world. Only recently, however, has the department branched out to the world of video games.

Professor Aaron Striegel currently teaches a course in which students create software designed for the Nintendo Wii. The program, “WiiHab,” is intended to assist stroke victims in the rehabilitation process.

Striegel said the use of video games in the classroom is an aim to generate an innovative learning experience.

“The idea for this course came about from a freshman engineering class,” he said. “Wanting to make the class more interesting, the class decided they wanted to use the WiiMote, a nickname given to the remote used with the Wii, to come up with creative exercises for engineering labs.”

Striegel’s idea to make class more interesting swiftly developed into a full-scale course. He said originally, stroke rehabilitation was a side project of the class, but the class decided to become more involved with the subject.

“After putting our heads together, we decided to work with South Bend’s Memorial Hospital’s stroke rehab patients on their balance,” Striegel said.

Graduate student Anne Martin, who was involved in the creation of WiiHab, said the program is helpful for stroke patients in the rehabilitation process.

“I used a computer program to design a computer screen of where the center of balance was for the Wii Balance Board,” she said. “The patient can then stand on the board, and the Wii will be able to inform them instantly of their balance percentage.”

Martin said the instantaneous results are beneficial for stroke rehabilitation patients.

“WiiHab gives more information to stroke therapists than ever before,” she said. “Having an objective piece of technology like WiiHab allows the therapist to give live information to their patient to tell them how much progress they are making.”

Striegel said developing WiiHab is an ongoing process.

“We are continuing to research the impact the software has on its patients,” he said.

Striegel said this continued research involves a wide variety of academic interests.

“We are always looking for students who would be interested in helping with the research,” Striegel said. “Whether they are pre-med, computer science or engineering majors, we would love to have you on board.”