WSU researcher receives grant to build family audio database

By Doug Nadvornick, College of Medical Sciences

VanDam-80SPOKANE, Wash. – Computer, speech and cognitive sciences will benefit from audio recordings of children’s communications that will be compiled into a database with funding from a National Science Foundation grant.

Mark VanDam, a Washington State University speech and hearing sciences assistant professor, received the $985,000 grant to combine his collection of 2,000 recordings with those of colleagues at the University of California-Merced and Carnegie Mellon University.

Mark VanDam with speech and hearing sciences student Kellie Raines.

During years of work, the researchers have recorded children and their parents interacting in different settings. In VanDam’s case, he – or graduate students working for him – affixed small recording devices, about the size of a deck of cards, to young children and captured the sounds of them communicating with their parents and siblings for days.

The grant will fund compilation of the database and software to manage it. A wide research community of speech scientists, audiologists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, computer scientists and engineers will be able to access the information.

Mark VanDam with speech and hearing sciences student Tracy Tully.

Earlier this year VanDam used his library of recordings to publish a study that concluded mothers and fathers communicate differently with their young children ( The study garnered a lot of public attention.

VanDam believes researchers can make more discoveries about family communication dynamics, language acquisition, speech and hearing disorders and automatic speech processing if they have access to audio data collected by other scientists.


Mark VanDam, WSU Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, 509-358-7599,
Doug Nadvornick, WSU College of Medical Sciences communications, 509-358-7540,