In 2017, 5 young people from the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School decided to form themselves into a robotics team called “The Dark Side” and enter a regional robotics competition sponsored by First Robotics. Their participation was a courageous foray into a world, which has been heavily dependent on sight for participation.
In Guyana, Ganesh Singh, Program Coordinator with the Guyana Council of Organizations For Persons With Disabilities and ICT Instructor Rosemary Ramitt are determined that visually disabled young people have the same opportunities to participate in technology programs which are currently being made available to youth all across Guyana.
Ms Ramitt lost her eyesight at fourteen years old and was then forced to leave school. Fortunately, a few years later, Disability advocate, Ganesh Singh introduced an impressive program to digitize the CXC curriculum for blind students. Using technology and the digital curriculum, Rosemary prepared for and wrote 9 subjects. She earned 9 grade ones. Today she teaches ICT classes to visually impaired students. It is this talent and determination that STEMGuyana is looking to harness. STEMGuyana members believe that youth given opportunity will often do amazing things.
STEMGuyana intends to ensure that the upcoming annual National Robotics League which will serve as the qualifiers for the International Youth Robotics Competition, is fully integrated with young people of all abilities, empowering interested students, regardless of gender, ethnicity or disability to be able to participate fully in the Nation’s first of its kind upcoming competition.
Already students from the Deaf Association of Guyana successfu
In addition to learning new technology, exposing visually impaired and blind students to robotics is one effective way to strengthen their collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. In addition to learning to build and program robots, robotics can also be used to strengthen student learning in Science and other disciplines. For example, robotics allows students to quickly build working model
STEMGuyana used two effective models to convey key concepts to visually disabled students. The first is the partnership method, which requires a sighted partner to explain details of the parts, objectives and build instructions. To be effective, this method requires a partner who is able to communicate effectively, and who is willing to allow the students to use trial and error to learn the various parts, functions and methods for connecting the pieces together.
Another method explored is to allow the visually disabled students to review a fully built model, and to have them feel it, ask questions and un-build / reverse engineer the model, and thereafter allowing them to rebuild the model. Both methods proved to be effective during STEMGuyana’s recent training program.
According to Program Coordinator, Ganesh Singh who lost his sight at seventeen years old, “It is wonderful that persons with visual disabilities that is persons who are blind or visually impaired, have an opportunity to be involved with robotics. It will definitely aid in the learning process of children with disabilities and we are hoping that after completion of the “Train the Trainers” workshop, we will then be able to impart the knowledge to children with disabilities.”