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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 6, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 41
Blind Students Visit JHU for Hands-On Science, Engineering

Steven Gordon, Matt Cooper, Alex Moore and Kris Scheppe use a fan to test the student-built windmills.
Photo by Will Kirk/HIPS and Jay Vanrensselaer

By Phil Sneiderman

About 200 blind or low-vision high school students from across the United States visited the Homewood campus last week to participate in the National Federation of the Blind Youth Slam, an ambitious event aimed at allowing these young people to complete challenging science and technology lessons conveyed in a nonvisual manner.

During their visit to Baltimore, the students were housed in Johns Hopkins residence halls, and engineering and science faculty members and graduate students took part in the specially designed instruction, experiments and workshops.

The visiting students learned to build and launch rockets, send up weather balloons and assemble windmills and bridges. In addition, they were taught how to test this equipment and collect and analyze data from their experiments. Other workshops enabled them to sense how live geckos climb walls without falling, and to touch a spherical representation of stars in the night sky. Still other classes focused on biology, robotics and environmental chemistry.

What a blast! The rocket launch was a highlight of the weeklong National Federation of the Blind Youth Slam.
Photo by Will Kirk/HIPS and Jay Vanrensselaer

The weeklong gathering was believed to be one of the largest such events ever held. Its goal was to use innovative teaching techniques to encourage blind students to pursue college degrees and careers in engineering and science. By enabling the visitors to complete their projects and meet blind adult mentors, including some who work as scientists and engineers, the organizers sought to demonstrate that the blind are capable of succeeding in fields that are falsely believed to be closed to them.

Many of the educational preparations were completed over the past year by Whiting School graduate students Caroline McEnnis and Ben Tang, who were supported by National Science Foundation funding. With help from National Federation of the Blind staff, McEnnis and Tang spent many hours adapting traditional lessons so that they could be presented in a nonvisual way.

Ben Tang, standing, checks out a bridge with Tyle Samuel and Bee Yang.
Photo by Will Kirk/HIPS and Jay Vanrensselaer


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