Bridging the Gap Between Industry and Academia

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Original CITM Article, July 27, 2021

Axcessiom Technologies Inc Logo
Mohawk College Logo

As a software and manufacturing start up, Axcessiom Technologies’ goal is to create products that improve the quality of life for others. Their flagship Driver Assistance System allows individuals with disabilities to operate their vehicles safely and effectively using facial gestures. In early 2021, Axcessiom sought to develop a process allowing clients to capture baseline facial expressions for their proprietary facial gesture recognition software; however, as a result of COVID, the company faced a challenge because it could no longer invite clients in person to establish baselines prior to deployment. An alternate approach was required.

As a business accelerator and as part of its value add, the Centre for Integrated Transportation and Mobility (CITM) sources partnerships to support client innovations whether at the ideation, discovery, validation, efficiency, or scale stage of their business. CITM is strategically located in Hamilton, Ontario, a city known for its transportation and automotive expertise, and also home to several renowned academic institutions such as Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology, a leader in applied research, and McMaster University, consistently named one of Canada’s top research intensive universities.

Within the autonomous transportation and smart mobility sector, simultaneous research and development, innovation, and product commercialization is happening as investment in the sector explodes. Industry and academic collaboration remains critical for three primary reasons:

  1. Bridges applied research with real-life application promoting the development of commercialized solutions
  2. Provides a perfect opportunity for start-ups with limited resources to access a motivated and knowledgeable student base
  3. Enhances student learning by providing visibility to real life problems and an opportunity to be a part of the solution

CITM facilitated a connection between Mohawk and Axcessiom, providing Mohawk students exposure to a start-up facing a real-life business challenge, and enabling Axcessiom to access expertise to find a creative solution to address an immediate business need. The outcome was a website survey tool allowing users to capture expressions, establishing a baseline for the calibration phase of deployment for Axcessiom’s facial gesture recognition software.

Mohawk’s Computer Systems Technology – Software Development program includes a Software Engineering Project course. Students in the course who worked with Axcessiom benefitted from experiential learning to solve a real business problem. Students were also provided the opportunity to apply concepts and theoretical principles from the course curriculum. All students were graded and received course credit for the projects they were involved with. Mohawk Professor and Student Project Facilitator, Mark Yendt noted, “It can be difficult for students to obtain relevant industry experience given technology evolves constantly and almost as rapidly as they are learning it. Working with Axcessiom’s leadership and design team throughout the process was invaluable because not only were students exposed to complex concepts such as Artificial Intelligence but also required to apply their theoretical knowledge in a dynamic, relevant, and real-time setting to solve an immediate business challenge.”

As a start-up, Axcessiom valued the opportunity to work with a highly motivated group of students. Hanna Haponenko, Axcessiom’s Technology Lead, stated, “Like so many others businesses, COVID forced us to pivot from our initial strategy. The students we worked with recognized our urgency in developing an alternate solution to help our clients create individual baselines for our software solution prior to usage. The students were enthusiastic, focused, and committed to learning and working collaboratively with our team to identify and deploy an alternate option efficiently and quickly.”

The entire process and experience proved so positive that if a future project required student involvement, Axcessiom would absolutely take advantage of the opportunity.

Innovators face unique challenges and as a business accelerator, CITM exists to support clients along their entire start-up and scale-up journey. Director, Richard Dunda noted, “At CITM, we are uniquely positioned to facilitate collaborations between academia and industry, specifically in autonomous transportation and electrification. Given Mohawk’s reputation in Applied Research, we knew they were the perfect partner within our ecosystem to support Axcessiom’s product design and development. This particular student project is an excellent example of a partnership that integrates workforce skills readiness and progressing a technology solution along the necessary product validation and commercialization path.”

To learn more about student projects including how to submit a project idea or promote student engagement, contact info@citm.ca.