Communicating with Frankie: A Nova Solution

201% of $20,000 goal
This campaign ended on August 07, 2020, but you can still make a gift to Villanova University by clicking here!
View All
An Anonymous DonorArt Ryan '65, Chair, ECE Advisory Board matched $1,500
View All
An Anonymous DonorPhil DiVita ’63 gave $10,000

Campaign Highlights 

Thank you so much to the Villanova community for uniting in support of this campaign. Your generosity has been truly incredible, as illustrated in the highlights below. 

  • Art Ryan '65, Chair of Villanova’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Board, pledged a $50 matching gift to a contribution of any size for 30 donors
  • We completed this match and exceeded our initial $10,000 goal
  • Phil DiVita ’63 pledged $10,000 if we reached our new $20,000 goal
  • We met this challenge, unlocked the $10,000 gift, and received an additional $10,000 from John Jones ’72 who was inspired by your generosity

Thank you for making “Communicating with Frankie: A Nova Solution” a success! 

Transforming Communication Through Research 

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of cerebral palsy. The condition causes muscle stiffness, which affects speech and mobility, and as a result, can make it difficult to communicate. Through a capstone research project, Villanova electrical and computer engineering students are working to address these challenges and create new communication tools. The goal of this project is to develop an easy-to-use system in which those with spastic cerebral palsy can use an iPad to speak, text, email and communicate more independently

Echoing the values of Veritas, Unitas, Caritas, the student research team is committed to serving others through this project—and it starts right here at Villanova. The students will be working with Villanova alumnus Frankie Kineavy ’14 and two current students with spastic cerebral palsy as they develop, test and implement this new communication system. 

New Challenges  

The student research team was planning to test the system through in-person sessions. However, with the shift to remote learning and social distancing protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this is no longer an option. Instead of the need for two devices, the team now requires five: two for the student researchers to continue testing and development, and three for each of the research participants. The team’s ability to pivot their research and quickly adapt to the unforeseen challenges of a global pandemic illustrates their commitment to this project. But, with additional supplies required to continue their research, they face an immediate funding need. 

Your Impact 

Your gift will help to purchase the iPads, associated accessories and software licenses needed to continue this capstone research. At the project’s conclusion, the research participants will keep their systems. With your support, this system has the potential to change the way these participants communicate and provide newfound independence and self-expression. Ultimately, this research could lead to a broader solution to help transform communication for those with spastic cerebral palsy.

Thank you for your support!

To learn more about Frankie and this research project, check out this article from the College of Engineering.   

Video Update About Your Impact!

Last summer, your generosity fueled the work of student researchers Michael DiGiacomo and Christian Berger as they adapted their capstone project, “Communication for All,” to meet unexpected challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The student team aimed to develop a system to help Villanovans with spastic cerebral palsy communicate more independently. You and more than 240 fellow donors contributed over $40,000 to “Communicating with Frankie: A Nova Solution”—we are truly grateful for your gift!

With the start of the new semester, we wanted to share a few highlights about the progress that has been possible through your support. Watch the video below to hear more about Michael and Christian’s work and the impact of your generosity. 

  • Functioning prototypes were delivered to the three mentors participating in this research (Frankie, Devin, and Liam), and were equipped with tools necessary for the classroom and workplace. 
  • The applications were customized to meet the needs of each mentor, designed specifically for their typing approach and to accommodate their most commonly used words and phrases (ex: Villanova, Big East Conference). 
  • Using 3D modeling software and 3D printing, a housing unit was created for each device to ensure safety and functionality, and was assembled on campus in the Jones Family Multidisciplinary Design Lab. 

Looking ahead, the students and their faculty advisor envision further growth and improvement for this project. Work will continue through an Engineering Entrepreneurship course this spring, and there are plans to assemble a new team of senior engineers to work on this project in the coming semesters. This long-term impact would not have been possible without your generous support! 

549 days ago by Nicole Duhamel
Thank You!

Michael Digiacomo, one of the student researchers leading this capstone design project, wanted to thank you for your support of "Communicating with Frankie: A Nova Solution." Watch his video message to hear how your gift has already made an impact! 

Thank You Video Closed Captions

710 days ago by Nicole Duhamel
Challenge Completed and Over $40,000 Raised!

Thank you to the over 240 donors who helped make "Communicating with Frankie: A Nova Solution" a success! We exceeded our new goal of $20,000 to unlock Phil DiVita ’63’s $10,000 challenge gift AND John Jones ’72, inspired by your generosity, contributed an additional $10,000. Together we raised more than $40,000 in support of this research!

Because of you, student researchers can resume work on their project and development will continue beyond this academic year. With these additional resources, future student teams can update and expand this system, providing the best communication tools for Villanovans with cerebral palsy – and potentially leading to a broader solution.

731 days ago by Nicole Duhamel
Over $15,000 Raised….And a New Challenge Gift!

Thank you so much to our donors–we are blown away by the overwhelming support we have received for “Communicating with Frankie: A Nova Solution.” We have exceeded our initial goal of $10,000! Inspired by this incredible response, Villanova Electrical Engineering alumnus Phil DiVita ’63 has generously pledged to give $10,000 if the crowdfunding campaign reaches a new goal of $20,000!

These additional resources will allow the current system to be updated and expanded, including increasing the speed of communication, optimizing the predictive word and phrase functionality, and solving control issues specific to each participant. The ultimate goal would be to adapt this technology for users of various communication needs and abilities to provide a system for a broader population. There will also be more opportunities to build upon this project in future Engineering Entrepreneurship and Electrical and Computer Engineering classes!

You can help us keep the momentum going by sharing this campaign and spreading the word about the challenge gift!

740 days ago by Nicole Duhamel
Student Researcher Shares His Experience

Christian Berger, one of the seniors leading this capstone design project, shared his experience working with Frankie Kineavy ’14, a participant in their project and the inspiration for this research. Frankie is an accomplished sportswriter, local softball coach and motivational presenter. Frankie also has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, which affects his ability to walk and speak. To interact with others, he often relies on using a language board, pointing with his thumb to a chart that contains commonly used words and alphanumeric characters. When sending an email or text message, Frankie requires assistance with typing it. When accessing the internet, an aide must input his search inquiry and scroll for him. The system developed through this research will give Frankie independence in this communication with others. Watch the video below to hear more about how meeting Frankie changed the meaning of this project for the students involved

742 days ago by Nicole Duhamel
New Matching Gift!

Thank you to our donors who have helped “Communicating with Frankie: A Nova Solution” get off to such a great start! Your generosity is supporting research that could transform communication for those with spastic cerebral palsy.  

We are excited to share that we have a generous matching gift for this campaign! Right now, every gift of any amount will be matched with a $50 gift from Art Ryan '65, Chair of Villanova’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Board. Thank you, Art, for amplifying our impact! 

We encourage you to share this campaign with your friends and family to help spread the word. We have included a graphic below that you can share on social media to show how every gift makes a difference. You can share this message along with the graphic: 

I am supporting a crowdfunding campaign to help Villanova Engineering students develop a new communication system for Villanovans with spastic cerebral palsy. With social distancing protocols in place, additional devices are needed to test the communication system. Your support can help build the systems—every gift counts!  

753 days ago by Nicole Duhamel

Donor Affiliations
Most Recent Donors
Carter M. Young photo
Carter M. Young
Chris & Stacie Davis photo
Chris & Stacie Davis
Gregory Karambelas photo
Gregory Karambelas
John N Cannon photo
John N Cannon
Nhi Tran photo
Nhi Tran
An Anonymous Donor
Bridget Kelly photo
Bridget Kelly
Katie DeNicola photo
Katie DeNicola
Tommy Lionelli photo
Tommy Lionelli
Joe Campolo photo
Joe Campolo


Phil DiVita ’63 photo
Phil DiVita ’63
Gave $10,000 during a Challenge!
Community Advocates photo
generated 482 clicks and 26 gifts, totaling $2,145
Art Ryan '65, Chair, ECE Advisory Board photo
Art Ryan '65, Chair, ECE Advisory Board
matched a total of $1,500
Gayle Doyle photo
generated 2 clicks