Research and Development


The Coleman Institute's mission is to catalyze and integrate advances in science, engineering, and technology to promote the quality of life and independent living of people with cognitive disabilities. The Institute's primary mechanism to do this is by providing funding to CU faculty researchers on all of CU's campuses, and their research partners worldwide. Grants are made using several criteria:

  • A focus on applied cognitive technology for use by people with intellectual, developmental and related cognitive disabilities or their caregivers
  • The quality of the research and/or development being proposed
  • Evidence of interdisciplinary and multi-campus or multi-institutional collaboration
  • Ability to leverage federal grants and other funding
  • Potential for technology transfer and commercialization of intellectual property
  • Dissemination of research results or developments

Since its inception, the Institute has provided more than 150 grants. These allocations have been for seed funding and/or laboratory support for research, matching funds to assist CU faculty in securing significant research funding from Federal and private agencies, and support for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to pursue their research careers. In addition, the Institute has provided support for special projects involving academic initiatives and mission-related conference support.

A major investment of the Coleman Institute has been in the co-funding of two federal government center grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). In 2004, NIDRR initiated funding for the nation's first Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for the Advancement of Cognitive Technologies (RERC-ACT). In a peer reviewed national competition, the University of Colorado succeeded in securing the Center. In 2009, the grant was re-competed. Once again, the University of Colorado succeeded. The combined federal grants exceed $9 million and the combined commitment by the Coleman Institute for RERC-ACT I (2004-2009) and RERC-ACT II (2009-2014) was over $1.6 million. Cathy Bodine, Associate Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Anschutz Medical Center continues to serve as principal investigator.

The RERC-ACT I incorporated 13 separate projects on the UCB, UCCS, AMC, and UCD campuses in nine different academic units. Research partners from four other research universities in Illinois, California, Michigan and Kansas also participated. Other collaborators include the Institute for Matching Persons and Technology, Inc., AbleLink Technologies, Inc., AT Sciences, LLC, and CaringFamily. Projects fell into five categories: needs assessment projects; community living and technology; health, family support and technology; education, employment and technology; and technology standards development.

RERC-ACT II builds on past successes and introduces new elements of research and development of cognitive technologies across the life span. Efforts are focused in three main areas: creating a product usability testing facility to focus rigorous industry-standard product testing protocols on cognitive assistive technology, developing a core software/sensor platform to support mobile animated agents used for multiple applications, and developing infrastructure standards, long considered an important missing link for information technology access by people with cognitive disabilities.

From non-linear job coaching to Socially Assistive Robots, the projects are challenging, creative and show great promise in improving quality of life for people with cognitive disabilities, their families and their caregivers.

The titles of the RERC-ACT projects appear below.

Product Testing Laboratory

Non-Linear Context-Aware Prompting System [N-CAPS] for Persons with Cognitive Disabilities: a 12 month pilot feasibility study

Effects of a Mobile-Based Skill Building Coaching Technology Intervention for People with Cognitive Disabilities: a 6-month randomized controlled-pilot feasibility study

Cognitive Decline, Work and Technological Interruptions

Theory and Simulation-based Vocabulary Development for Employment: An Analysis of the Word Maturity Method for Adult Workers with Mild Cognitive Impairments

Early Developmental Skills Acquisition and Socially Assistive Robotics [SARS]: A Pilot Investigation of Effectiveness

Development of Uniform Standards for Cognitive Technologies

Interactive Animated Agents Platform Development for Cognitive Technologies at Home, School, Work and Community [IAAP]

Non-Linear Context-Aware Prompting System [N-CAPS] for Adults with Cognitive Disabilities in the Workplace

Mobile Coach for Vocational Application

The Socially Interactive Early Childhood Robotics [SAR] Project

Inclusive Collaboration Technology for Employment and Participation

A new partnership in 2014 helped to establish another RERC – The Rehabilitation Research Training Center on Health and Wellness for People with Cognitive Disabilities. The partnership includes the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center

The RERC-ACT centers are not the only recipients of Coleman Institute funding. The Institute has also supported research and development across a broad spectrum including "smart" transportation systems, "smart" home residential care systems, a personal digital assistant [PDA] based speech training program for children with Down syndrome and patients with Parkinson's, recreation technology adapted for people with cognitive disabilities, computer-based technology for teaching reading to students with cognitive limitations, and web-based resources for teachers, parents, and students with disabilities in the public schools. Software solutions that map on to new open source opportunities, like Google's Android project have been supported. Funding has also been provided for initiatives to promote accessibility to the World Wide Web for people with cognitive disabilities, including policy and regulatory issues, single sign-on system, content adjustments, and specialized user support. As a result, the Institute has a national presence in the area of cognitive technology on the Web, both in the development of standards and in policy directions

The Institute provides funding for research and development projects on new technologies and new applications. Advances have been made in areas such as batteryless-wireless power for sensors and devices. Biomedical science and technology projects funded by the Institute include drug delivery systems for conditions such as schizophrenia and epilepsy, immunological studies of AIDS/HIV with potential pharmacological interventions, the development of bio-compatible electrodes for in vivo recording and stimulation in the brain using Cellular Engineering Micro Systems and wireless telemetry, and an investigation of drugs to prevent decline in cognitive function, and non-human stem cell research in a mouse model of Down syndrome.

The Coleman Institute provided critical funding for graduate student fellowships to support the establishment of the PhD program in Geropsychology at UCCS and it continues to provide developmental funding to the UCCS Center for Aging, in support of a new National Center on Aging Caregivers for People with Cognitive Disabilities.

The Coleman Institute encourages commercialization of intellectual property derived from the research and development efforts of faculty for the benefit of people with cognitive disabilities and in some cases, for the advancement of biomedical and biotechnical applications with wider society benefit as well. This is achieved by working closely with CU's Technology Transfer Office (TTO). The Institute also participates in partial ownership of the intellectual property based on invested grant funds to faculty who also have other grant funding. Two of the Institute's funded projects have been leveraged with investments through the State of Colorado and the University of Colorado TTO's Bioscience Discovery Evaluation Grant Program and a third received a Proof of Concept grant from TTO directly.

Fellowships and Sponsorships

To support the research and development activities, The Coleman Institute Fellowship Program makes awards in three categories: graduate fellowships, postdoctoral fellowships, and faculty fellowships. In addition, the Institute provides sponsorships for disability/technology conferences and makes small grants for other mission-related special opportunities. Jeffery Hoehl is the current Coleman Institute Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Computer Science. His dissertation addresses the implementation and evaluation of the “Simple WebAnywhere Tool.”