Students Implement Amazon Alexa into Classroom

Three students standing at the front of the classroom, with a smartboard that displays the words CT Toolbox behind them

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – Three senior Kutztown University computer science and information technology students successfully implemented Amazon Alexa with Extron classroom audio/visual systems to allow for voice-controlled technology on campus.

KU students Justin Harris, William Henry and Hannah Moyer completed their project, 'Classroom Technology or CT-Toolbox Project,' which implements the voice control process with two software programs: Alexa Skill running in the Amazon AWS cloud and the CT-Toolbox client running on an Extron Control Processor. KU has 235 rooms on campus that are equipped with Extron AV systems containing a desktop PC and monitor, as well as an Extron IN1608 xi IPCP Eight Input Scaling Presentation Switcher with an integrated control processor to which the CT-Toolbox operates on.

The CT-Toolbox pilot project that Harris, Henry and Moyer took on exemplifies Kutztown University's commitment to the Americans with Disabilities Act. This project, suggested by Computer Science and Information Technology professor Donna DeMarco, provides a way to control AV systems with voice commands. The voice commands are delivered from the cloud to the CT-Toolbox, where it tells the control processor to output the required hardware command to the applicable device. For instance, a student can say “turn on the projector” and the device will execute that demand via the control processor port appropriate to the device being commanded. The process is reversed to translate status from the commanded device into verbal confirmation made possible by Amazon Alexa.

The CT-Toolbox senior project student team was overseen, advised and supported by recently retired Troy Weidner, information technology, along with Ty Schwab, manager of classroom technology. The team was provided with insights from Robert Kennedy, media and control systems engineer at the University of Scranton, as he had knowledge from his own successful Alexa-Extron voice control project. Extron sales and marketing managers Jason Bond and Peter Knapp also played a key role in helping the team with Extron control system drivers and Extron Global Scripter software programming suggestions.

In November 2020, the student team and their advisors came together for "Demo Day," where the team presented their senior project results. During the demo, students demonstrated the incredible application of performing hands-free voice control of the campus' classroom AV systems. 

"Our success in completing the CT-Toolbox project is partly attributable to our Computer Science and Information Technology core courses," students stated in a recent Extron news release. "The user-friendliness of Extron Global Scripter and Alexa Skills Kit were a big help, as was the patient support provided by our advisors, including Extron."

Learn more about KU's Department of Computer Science and Information technology online.