Science U Provides STEM Activities For Blind Students

July 25, 2016
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and Penn State's Science U make forensic science accessible to students who are blind or visually impaired.

At its annual Summer Academy on Penn State's University Park campus, Pennsylvania's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation is working with the university's Science U to make forensic science activities accessible to students who are blind or visually impaired. Experts from Science U, who provide STEM-related curriculum and camps, team up with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services to do a full-day series of activities to promote possible STEM fields for these students.

The students participate in various forensic science activities and lessons, culminating with solving a criminal case. The participants use various accessible technology and team work to follow clues to unlock the answers to the case. Throughout the day the students analyze footprints, fingerprints and blood splatters. Science U and BBVS want students to know about the possibilities in this area that hold the keys to some of the fastest-growing occupations in the state.

"Often students who are blind or visually impaired are not included in these types of activities or programs," says BBVS Director Joe Strechay. "But Science U approached the Summer Academy last summer about connecting to discuss the possibilities and it's worked out beautifully for everyone involved."

The Summer Academy is a three-week postsecondary and employment preparation program hosted at Penn State University by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation's Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and the Bureau of Special Education's PaTTAN. In its eighth year, the academy is hosting 24 high school students who are blind or visually impaired. The Summer Academy was reportedly named a national best practice involving post-secondary preparation by the U.S. Department of Education. The program includes training in the use of various assistive technologies and the accessibility of mainstream products. The program uses smartphone apps, 3-D prints and tactile graphics.

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