2018: A Year in Review
As 2018 comes to a close, we’re taking a moment to reflect upon the progress Cognitopia has made this year. We credit much of this momentum and success to you, our many wonderful students, teachers, clients, and organizations using the Cognitopia Platform for Self-Determination on a daily basis to facilitate person-centered planning, goal setting, and self-managed independent living and work.
Massive Update to MyLife
One of the biggest milestones of 2018 was releasing a major redesign of the MyLife app for ePortfolio creation, IEP self-direction, and person-centered planning. The new MyLife is more intuitive, customizable, and user-friendly, strengthening the focus on self-determination—a core value of the Cognitopia Platform.
Read more about the improvements to MyLife in this blog post.
We grew. This year two new individuals joined the Cognitopia team, Eric Smith (left) and Phil Hayes (right). Eric and Phil bring decades of experience to their respective positions as Chief Operating Officer and New England Representative. Phil and Eric met briefly in Boston last week to discuss how to best support and serve our growing customer base.
Eric Christian Smith, COO
Eric C. Smith, as the new strategic Chief Operating Officer, focuses on increasing the opportunity for more people throughout the nation to benefit from Cognitopia’s Platform for Self-Determination. He brings his two plus decades of experience to build a solid foundation with rewarding results for customers. He has 30 years creating, developing, launching companies & products (nationally/internationally). Additionally, Eric is known as an Author, Speaker, Songwriter, Musician, Professional Dancer and Performer, Health Industry specialist, Multi-Martial Artist with a Black Belt in Taekwondo, and Global Traveler. Outside the office, Eric enjoys continually learning about and improving health, fitness, and wisdom. He is an avid art, architecture, and world culture enthusiast and loves sharing time and activities with his family.
Phil Hayes, New England Representative
Phil has worked in the disabilities field for over thirteen years. His experience includes workforce development programming as well as helping create opportunity for others. He is father to a son who experiences autism and he focuses in his work on education and career development for young adults on the spectrum. Phil also works as a coach to young adults, helping them navigate the challenges they encounter and is active in his local school’s special education parent advisory committee. In addition, he has a background in hi-technology sales and technology in education.
Discovering Our Roots
Part of moving ahead is staying true to our roots and in that vein we wanted to capture a few key milestones in the Cognitopia company history. In this video, company founder and CEO Tom Keating narrates a poster he created to showcase the key components of the early home sensor network he created to support his brother James who had developmental disabilities including autism. That project and the early exploration of how to use computers to improve self-management in daily living led to the evolution Cognitopia from the stand-alone Picture Planner application to the Cognitopia Platform.
Read the full “Then and Now” evolution story here.
Revealing Our Future
Beginning in 2019, more people across the nation will be able to benefit from Cognitopia’s self-determination software platform to improve independence, aid IEP self-direction, or drive goal achievement.
Cognitopia is now driving hard to transition from a research testing company into a sustainable commercial company in order to scale our research outputs to the many individuals with cognitive challenges who could benefit from our work. As we work with current families and organizations to refine bundled software and service offerings, our goal is to establish a strong business that will be able to provide the highest quality training, technical support, and ongoing innovation in technology to support self-determination.
We invite any and all to contact us to learn more and discover how we can help support your personal and organizational goals and mission to foster independence and support more effective teaching and caregiving.
A project that took a fair amount of behind-the-scenes execution, 2018 saw the official migration of user accounts from Cognitopia Connect (our Beta testing environment) to Cognitopia.com. If you have used Cognitopia Connect in the past, you can simply log into Cognitopia.com using your existing username and password. Of course, always reach out to us if you have any questions or need assistance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-866-573-3658 extension 4.
User Testing Continues
As part of our ongoing research and development, we’re in year two of an ongoing partnership with two inclusive, two-year, non-degree postsecondary education certificate programs for students with developmental/intellectual disabilities:
- University of Nevada Reno: P2I (Path to Independence) https://www.unr.edu/nced/projects/nced_p2i
- University of Nevada Las Vegas: Project F.O.C.U.S. (Forming Occupational and Community Understanding for Success): http://unlvcoe.org/focus/
The data and feedback we receive from the University of Nevada students, mentors, and teachers provides us with valuable data and feedback instrumental to our ongoing product development, research, and grant reporting.
Also participating in second and third years of user testing are two local groups, the SLLEA (Smart Living Learning and Earning with Autism) House and the Eugene 4J Connections program.
New Grant Funding – Nearly $700,000
In the early fall we received word that two new grant projects were awarded to Cognitopia/Assistech Systems through the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), which is housed in the Administration on Community Living within the Department of Health and Human Services. The new funding will support the development of digital technology that augments our existing platform of web apps designed for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism.
The first award is a NIDILRR Field-Initiated Development grant, Getting Out (Award # 90IFDV0008, October 2018 – September 2021), funded for a total of $599,862. Getting Out is a three-year project to develop an innovative web application that helps individuals with cognitive disabilities more effectively build and maintain social relationships, turning virtual social networks of people with and without disabilities into real-world relationships around activities of common interest and mutual support.
The second grant, Person-Centered Planning (PCP) ToolKit is funded by the NIDILRR Small Business Innovation Research Program. During this six-month project (Award # 90BISA0019, October 2018 – March 2019) that is funded for a total of $99,986.
Read the full press release here.
Good News Spreads
Our exciting news caught the interest of a reporter from The Eugene Register Guard newspaper. Read the full front-page story that ran on November 12 and featured quotes from some of our key users, including SLLEA and UNLV.
Julie Henning has been with Cognitopia since 2015. In that time, she has been involved in customer support, training, marketing, documentation, social media, and data collection. Some of her favorite projects have been mentoring our videographer intern, Nate, and weekly classroom testing and curriculum development for the many students in the 4J Connections Transition program. She works closely with Eugene-based SLLEA (Smart Living, Learning & Earning with Autism) to integrate Cognitopia’s self-management tools into the organization and structure design input and support platform implementation. Professionally, Julie has over twenty years’ experience working in engineering, technology, software development, and journalism; a path made possible with two degrees in Technical Communication: a BS from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and a MS from Colorado State University. A single mom of three high schoolers (grades 9, 10, and 11), Julie has introduced Cognitopia to terms such as “sick” and “yeet,” while overseeing the office coffee consumption. In her free time, she enjoys playing recreational soccer, improv comedy, and traveling.