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Research Experience for High School Students: Summer 2013

Computer Animations of American Sign Language

The Linguistic and Assistive Technologies Laboratory ("LATLab") at The City University of New York, Queens College, is inviting high school students in the New York City area with a strong knowledge of ASL to apply for a research opportunity for the summer of 2013. 

Who should apply? 

This opportunity is open to high school students who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions.  Deaf high school students with an interest in computers, languages, or science would be excellent candidates for this opportunity.  Strong ASL skills are important for the research project.  This opportunity is NOT appropriate for students who have had only 1 or 2 years of ASL classes; only students who are fluent in ASL would be well-qualified for this research experience.

Students who are in their junior year of high school are specifically invited to apply for this opportunity.  Students in their senior or sophomore year will also be considered for this opportunity.

This opportunity is intended for high school students living in the New York City area who could commute to Queens College each day. 


The City University of New York, Queens College, New York City


July 1 to August 15.  Monday to Thursday from 10am to 5pm for approximately seven weeks of the summer. (The lab would be closed on the July 4 holiday.)

Financial Support?

Participating high school students would receive $4000 for the summer.

What is the project?

Our project is studying ASL, linguistics, and computer science.  We are using video cameras and motion-capture gloves and sensors to record ASL performances.  Then, we are analyzing the recordings and producing computer animations of ASL based on our research.  The goal is to learn how to make ASL animations more realistic and understandable.  Animations of ASL could be used on websites or in computer programs for people who are deaf.

How to Apply?

Your complete application must be received by April 30, 2013. A complete application contains four parts:

  1. An application form.  The application form is available here:
  2. An official high school transcript.  Your high school must mail the form directly.  A form to request the transcript is available here:
  3. A parent/guardian consent form (if the student is under age 18).  The parent/guardian form is available here:
  4. A recommendation form from a teacher or high school administrator.  Your high school or teacher should mail the form directly.  The recommendation form is available here:

All materials should arrive at this address by April 30, 2013:
        Matt Huenerfauth, Computer Science
        Queens College/CUNY
        65-30 Kissena Blvd
        Flushing, NY 11367

If possible, please send an e-mail to Dr. Matt Huenerfauth by April 15 to say that you are interested and might apply.  This is not necessary, but it would help us to know how many applications to expect.


Feel free to contact Dr. Matt Huenerfauth (Associate Professor of Computer Science, Queens College, CUNY) with any questions about the project.  E-mail is the best way to send questions. You can also check out the website of the lab:

More Details About the Project

It is our goal that this opportunity will give you experience in a research laboratory, knowledge of computers and linguistics, hands-on experience with motion-capture and animation technology, and insight into the process of applying for and succeeding in higher education in computer science.  Students with a strong academic background are especially well-suited to this opportunity.

During the summer, you would participate in several important research activities:

  1. Analyzing video-taped recordings of American Sign Language (with corresponding data collected using motion-capture gloves and suits).  We will mark locations in the videos when specific ASL signs are being performed or when particular linguistic events occur (such as when a signer points to a location in space during a conversation to set up a "reference point" for an entity under discussion).  We will also mark which signs in the sentence are nouns, verbs, etc.
  2. Using commercial 3D animation software to script the movement of some ASL signs.  These signs would then become part of the dictionary of signs that are used in the computer animation software for the research project.  (We will show you how to use this animation software.)
  3. Interacting with deaf research subjects who come to the laboratory during on-going experiments in which ASL signers evaluate the quality of computer animations.  Since it is important to create an ASL-immersive environment during these experiments, your ASL signing skills would be important.  You will learn about research study design, data collection, and other typical activities of a research laboratory.  You will interact with several forms of motion-capture equipment (cybergloves, body suits with sensors, eye-gaze trackers, etc.) that are used in the laboratory to digitize sign language performances.  These tools are often used in the movie and video game industries, and many students are not aware of the research-based applications of these tools for American Sign Language.
  4. At the beginning of the summer, you would learn about the project, meet the college and PhD students at the LATLab, meet faculty members in the Computer Science department, learn about the equipment and software at the lab, and meet the other high school student at the lab for the summer.  You will also have an opportunity to see the Queens College campus, learn about applying for college, and learn more about studying computer science.


You can see a video about our research laboratory that was produced by our university.

You can see a video produced by high school students last summer at the lab.

The URL of this page is:

This research opportunity position is subject to availability of funds.