International Students Gain Valuable Experience at Prestigious ICOST Conference
Learning About Smart Homes, Assistive Technologies, Robotics & Health Telematics
Through a collaboration between the Department of Bioengineering and the Office of International Affairs, University of Colorado Denver, five outstanding international students served as volunteer helpers and attended the 12th Annual International Conference on Smart Homes, Health Telematics, and Assistive Technology (ICOST) this summer. For eleven years, ICOST has been held in countries around the world – France (2003), Singapore (2004), Canada (2005), Northern Ireland (2006), Japan (2007), the United States (2008), France (2009), Korea (2010), Canada (2011), Italy (2012), and Singapore (2013; this was the first time that it has been held in Denver, Colorado.
ICOST brought together stakeholders from clinical, academic and industrial perspectives, along with end-users and family caregivers to explore how to utilize technologies to foster independent living and offer an enhanced quality of life.
The University of Colorado Denver’s international student volunteers were in degree programs in undergraduate as well as graduate levels that are all related to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field. The students have also come to the university from a variety of global regions that include Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.
Student volunteer Duílio Helfenstens enrolled in CU Denver’s ESL Academy through the Brazilian government’s effort to grant 100,000 scholarships to the country’s best students to experience academics at the world’s top universities. These students—in their second, third or fourth year of university in Brazil—are here for a year of study in STEM programs—which are in abundance at the University of Colorado Denver. The STEM education initiative, the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, which is administered by the Institute for International Education (IIE), is a result of joint efforts from two sponsoring organizations: CAPES (Brazilian Ministry of Higher Education) and CNPq (Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology).
Helfenstens said that he had a choice between studying at three American universities; he selected the University of Colorado Denver because “I really felt that the city and the university research purposes fit to mine”. He enjoyed helping at the ICOST conference.
“My participation (in ICOST), even small, gave me the opportunity to meet other international students outside of the ESL Academy. It was very good for me because they could show their perspectives about this event and their student projects.” As a civil engineering major, he was especially interested in learning about housing solutions for the homeless through models based on low building and maintenance costs, solutions that still provided enough comfort and security. “These houses are supposed to be built mainly in emergent countries such as Brazil, my country.”
Tolulope Oyewumi, an international graduate level student from Nigeria, enrolled in the master of public health epidemiology program because she considered the university to have “one of the top health institutions with advanced research in the country”. She was interested in volunteering at the ICOST event because she had no exposure or knowledge about SMART homes and wanted to learn more. Of particular interest were the seminars that related to her field of study: the challenge of assistive technology in developing countries, “emotion-aware systems” for the elderly, SMART-built environments from a public health perspective, and a mobile survey tool for smoking dependency among Native Americans.
“ICOST gave me exposure into what is happening in the field of health globally, especially in developing countries, and in issues surrounding rights and health equity.”
Following graduation, Oyewumi’s dream job is to work with a health care organization.
Saleh and Salah Alharbi are twin brothers from Saudi Arabia who are attending graduate school at the university.
Salah Alharbi explained, “I enrolled in the University of Colorado Denver because it has a great program in electrical engineering”.
He viewed his experience at the ICOST conference as being beneficial in several ways. “I believe that it motivates me to bring a new way of technology in order to help others. It is one of the best conferences I have attended.” He plans on learning more about ICOST’s research that is related to the field of electrical engineering and his goal is to become a teacher.
An additional international student volunteer at the ICOST event was Yanfei (“Lisa”) Wang, who is enrolled in the economics undergraduate program.
Brazilian student Duílio Helfenstens summed up his experience as an ICOST volunteer: “Thank you so much for this opportunity—and I would like to be helpful in other events!”
Assistive Technology Partners, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, School of Medicine www.assistivetechnologypartners.org