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From an early age, Nick Faddis always seemed to gravitate toward computers. But he wasn’t just interested in playing games or using them for fun—he wanted to learn how the technology worked.

Perhaps most importantly, he wanted to find ways that technology could help people.

It’s why he chose to work as a graduate assistant in the Minka Learning Lab, the 600-square-foot smart home on the University of Southern Indiana campus that’s designed to showcase innovations in aging and wellness.

“I think the healthcare industry has fallen behind on the technology side of things, and it’s important to catch up as quick as possible,” he said. “I wanted to help with that.”

Faddis is currently pursuing an MBA in Data Analytics from the Romain College of Business. He completed his undergrad degree at Saint Louis University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is also the captain of the USI Men’s Soccer team.

He chose to continue his education at USI due to several connections with his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri–from fellow teammates on the soccer team to instructors he works with–and the allure of being able to learn in a business college accredited by AACSB.

When it came to picking a concentration, it didn’t take Faddis long to settle on something data related. With internship experience and a love for puzzles and solving things, he knew he wanted to pursue something in the field of data science.

“Once I had computer science classes in high school, it felt like that just triggered something,” Faddis said. “I like looking into the numbers, trends, forecasting and what not.”

While he knows data and technology will be involved with his future, he still isn’t exactly sure in which industry he’ll use his skills. But working with the Minka Learning Lab has started to open his eyes to potentially working with older adults in the healthcare field.

The lab is a part of the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) in the Bronstein Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness and is designed to explore and experiment with adaptable living.

Even though he admits he didn’t know much about the lifestyle and healthcare of older adults, working as a grad assistant in the lab introduced Faddis to just how important technology is for end-of-life care.

“Once I dove in, I saw how much healthcare is lacking for older adults because there’s a big stigma around it. People don’t want to even talk about death,” Faddis said. “Maybe they don’t want to talk about it, but once they do, there’s a different side of things. Once you open that door, you can see they want to live the rest of their lives peacefully.”

Even though Faddis doesn’t come from a healthcare background, his knowledge of computer science and technology fit in perfectly with the Minka Learning Lab. A smart home, the building is dominated by artificial intelligence (AI). The home currently has three different tiers of AI–the first tier includes everyday items such as Google Home, Alexa, Roomba, a Bluetooth coffee maker, a touchless sink and other items.

The second tier includes Josh.AI, a more advanced language processing system that can adjust to patterns and tone in speech and work with a variety of Bluetooth appliances. The third tier is highlighted by Joy–a system specifically designed for the Minka geared toward dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. It has a screen that can show old photos or play music to jog memories. It then analyzes the patient to learn if they are experiencing happiness, sadness or any other emotion.

“We’re trying to get AI involved in older adults’ lives,” Faddis said. “Many aren’t familiar with most of the newer technology, and they’re cautious of it because it’s not how they’ve grown up. Using it can work wonders and make it easier to do everyday tasks. Simply, technology like that can be huge for the healthcare industry.”

In addition to working with AI, he has been collaborating with the Computer Science and Computer Information Systems departments to allow students to create their own senior design project proposals centered around the Minka. He also set up the first annual USI Book Club alongside Dr. Kevin Valadares, Chair of Health Services, and is working with the lab to create an Advanced Care Planning (ACP) course with students and an older adult of their choice.

From the experience he’s gained just in the past year, Faddis realized continuing his education at USI was truly the right decision. He’s excited for what’s still to come before he walks across the Commencement stage in December 2023.

But while there are many things he loves about USI, the community stands above all else. There are connections he’s made here that will last the rest of his life.

“I really think the community is one of the biggest pros to USI. With all the projects I’ve started, it easily could’ve been no’s and rejections. But everyone has been as nice as can be,” Faddis said. “This community has got to be one of the best.”