[blindkid] Franklin Regional junior in 5-day science program for visually impaired youth - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Carol Castellano carol_castellano at verizon.net
Fri Sep 30 19:09:04 UTC 2011

Nice article.  Thanks for posting!

Carol Castellano
Director of Programs
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
carol_castellano at verizon.net

At 02:21 PM 9/26/2011, you wrote:

>Franklin Regional junior in 5-day science program for visually impaired youth
>Tommy Brown has been fascinated by cars and how 
>they work since he was a toddler.
>"When I was young, I loved to play with cars," 
>said Brown, 16, of Murrysville. "For a while, 
>I've been interested in the building aspect."
>With that in mind, the visually impaired 
>teenager is working toward his dream of becoming 
>an engineer, taking another step when he enrolled in Youth Slam in the summer.
>"Mentors for (Youth Slam) are blind, visually 
>impaired," Brown said. "I talked to them to see 
>what they do, how they do it and what equipment 
>they use ... to help me do a similar job."
>Youth Slam is a five-day STEM — science, 
>technology, engineering and math — academy held 
>every two years for 150 visually impaired teens 
>from across the country with "successfully 
>blind" adults serving as mentors. The program, 
>held at Towson University in Maryland, is 
>sponsored by the nonprofit National Federation of the Blind.
>"We found in many cases, blind or visually 
>impaired students are being steered away from 
>the STEM subjects," said Jim Antonacci, 
>president of the National Federation of the 
>Blind of Pennsylvania. "This made it a whole lot easier for them."
>Brown, a junior at Franklin Regional High 
>School, enrolled in the engineering track at 
>Youth Slam. He worked on such projects as 
>building models of bridges using Popsicle sticks 
>to see how much weight they could hold, and 
>helping build a track to move a hovercraft. He 
>was a passenger in the Blind Driver Challenge 
>Car, which makes use of nonvisual technology.
>He hasn't decided what type of engineering he 
>wants to study in college — possibly civil — but 
>he knows it's his career choice.
>Brown is legally blind from neurofibromatosis, a 
>genetic condition in which tumors grow on nerve 
>endings, including the optic nerve. Typically, 
>the tumors stop growing around age 8. For Brown, 
>whose tumors were discovered when he was 2, they 
>did not, and he lost most of his sight as a second-grader.
>"It was different. I started using some 
>magnifiers and learned to use a long cane," 
>Brown said. "At the time, I guess I was all 
>right with it. Obviously, I was upset I was losing my sight."
>The loss has not hampered his active lifestyle. 
>Brown plays cymbals in Franklin Regional's 
>marching band, participates in Boy Scouts, 
>serves on student council and plays goal ball, a 
>sport similar to soccer that's played by 
>visually impaired athletes with a ball equipped with bells.
>Philip Brown, Tom's father, is not surprised by 
>what his son has accomplished and has faith in 
>what he can accomplish in the future.
>"He's always been interested in how things 
>worked," his dad said. "That, I guess, is where 
>the engineering is coming in. He never says, 'I 
>can't do it.' He always wants to try it or adapt."
>Brown uses a cane to get around and reads 
>Braille, including his sheet music for the band. 
>He accesses a computer with screen reader 
>software Jaws and ZoomText, a screen magnification program.
>He recommends that anyone with vision challenges 
>become involved with the National Federation of the Blind.
>Antonacci said the organization stresses to 
>blind and visually impaired individuals how important they are.
>"Our philosophy is it's respectable to be blind. 
>It's OK to be blind. All a blind person is is a 
>person who does things differently," Antonacci 
>said. "We not only tell them they can do it; we prove to them they can."
>Brown has a message for anyone with visual impairment:
>"You can do anything," he said. "If there's 
>something you want to do, go for it."
>blindkid mailing list
>blindkid at nfbnet.org
>To unsubscribe, change your list options or get 
>your account info for blindkid:

More information about the blindkid mailing list