Kirsten Ellis

veski inspiring women career recovery grant recipient

Monash University

A veski inspiring women career recovery grant is awarded to Dr Kirsten Ellis, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Centred Computing at Monash University.

Solving real-world problems for people with disability

Dr Ellis leads the Inclusive Technology Research Group, working with the community to use cutting edge technology to solve real-world problems for people living with a disability. Her research focuses on optimising technology engagement opportunities for people living with disabilities. In a field that requires a unique range of skills to address interpersonal, creative and technical challenges, Dr Ellis’s work requires the ability to strive to address people’s needs with respect and sensitivity while being cognisant of the associated ethical issues. She has published on topics including technology for sign language learning, attention training technological tools for children with developmental delay, and design for braille keyboards.

COVID-19 has had a significant and continuing impact on Dr Ellis’s family responsibilities. These challenges compounded delays in her research with public health restrictions preventing significant aspects of her fieldwork.

Funding from veski will support the recruitment of a postdoctoral researcher to assist with ethics clearances, as well as completing research planned for 2020, and subsequent publishing. It will also support Dr Ellis’s preparation of an ARC Linkage Grant application with Wallara, an organisation that supports people with intellectual disabilities. The project will investigate how people with disability can engage in community maker spaces that enable exploration, problem solving and creative thinking in the creation of digital artefacts.

Superstar of STEM fostering engagement

Dr Ellis completed her doctoral studies in information technology at Monash University. She has a creative and technical background with experience in designing, developing and evaluating systems for people with unique requirements. She has developed multiple resources using a variety of technologies including Nintendo DS lite, iPad, iPhone, Android and Microsoft Kinect. She also plays with maker technologies including eTextiles to make creative pieces and artefacts to assist people and she researches innovative technologies to create tangible objects as authentic learning experiences.

With her commitment to fostering STEM engagement, particularly for under-represented groups, Dr Ellis was made a Science and Technology Australia Superstar of STEM for 2019/2020, leading to opportunities to engage and educate the wider community about the importance of the different perspectives that diversity and inclusion provides. In 2020, she presented at forums including Go Girls, Pint of Science and Google Tech week.

For the past two years Dr Ellis has run inclusive technology-making activities during National Science Week, leading to the development of TapeBlocks, a circuit-making activity accessible to everyone. She is now establishing a company to bring it to market.