RCOS Member is Finalist in Red Hat Open Source Woman of the Year Academic Award

by Mary Martialay on February 13, 2019

Mallory Gaspard, a dual major in physics and mathematics and a member of the Rensselaer Center for Open Source (RCOS), is one of five finalists in the Red Hat 2019 Open Source Woman of the Year Academic Award competition.

The winner will be selected following a public voting process, which ends at on February 25. To vote for Mallory Gaspard, click the “vote” button at the bottom of this page: https://www.redhat.com/en/about/women-in-open-sourceAccording to RCOS, for the past three semesters, Gaspard has been leading the open source Automatic Door Controller project. You can watch Gaspard discussing the project here.

Here’s some information about her from her profile on the Red Hat website:

As a disabled individual who uses a mobility scooter, one of Mallory’s greatest frustrations is the placement and unreliable functionality of automatic door opener buttons. These buttons are often placed in awkward and inaccessible locations that cause safety hazards for the user and those around them, especially on university campuses with high foot traffic. Mallory’s physical disability, coupled with her passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), led her to conceive a user-friendly, low-cost device and mobile application to open nearby automatic doors.

She joined RCOS to make that idea a reality. Mallory and her team launched the open source Automatic Door Control Project and designed a low-cost Raspberry Pi-based Bluetooth device that can be retrofitted onto existing automatic door opening equipment. They also developed a corresponding mobile app that allows users with school-documented disabilities to remotely open a door within a given radius. The app incorporates accessibility features such as assistive touch and voice-over so individuals with any disability can use it. In addition, Mallory’s team developed a complimentary open source app for university disability services.

Mallory views open source as an opportunity to connect with others from diverse backgrounds and collaboratively develop solutions to various everyday problems. She is passionate about using open source to increase access to affordable and user-friendly assistive technologies for disabled individuals. Recognizing that the broad range of problems we face every day are best solved by bringing together the combined experiences of many individuals, Mallory hopes to inspire others with unique experiences (especially minorities) to contribute to and develop their own open source projects. Through her team leadership and her mentoring of other students on other projects, she shows others that anyone can contribute to open source, regardless of major or background, and that diverse teams produce the most effective solutions.