[NFBOK-Talk] National Federation of the Blind Receives Grant from National Science Foundation

Jeanie Massay jeannie.massay at nfbok.org
Wed Feb 14 18:52:46 UTC 2018


National Federation of the Blind Receives Grant from National Science

Five-Year Grant Will Allow Blind Youth to Explore Engineering and Yield
Innovative Research in Informal Education

Baltimore, Maryland (February 13, 2018): The National Federation of the
Blind (NFB) has received a $2 million grant from the National Science
Foundation (NSF) that will allow blind students to explore the field of
engineering and provide useful educational research.

Working with researchers from Utah State University and educators from the
Science Museum of Minnesota, the National Federation of the Blind will
gather blind high school students from across the country to attend weeklong
summer programs called "NFB EQ" (Engineering Quotient). These programs will
teach engineering through hands-on activities and connect students with
blind adult mentors. The NFB and its partners will research the spatial
abilities of blind youth and develop model practices and nonvisual tools to
strengthen those abilities. Toolkits based on project activities will be
produced so that other parents and educators will be able to use these

Many blind people struggle with spatial skills and mental mapping. This is
primarily because blind students do not have access to educational
opportunities that foster the development of these skills. Among the STEM
disciplines, engineering relies most heavily on spatial reasoning skills, so
these programs will provide ample opportunities for students to utilize and
strengthen them. This will help blind youth to develop engineering skills,
prepare them for success in STEM fields, and strengthen their ability to
travel independently with a white cane or guide dog.

"A combination of lack of knowledge about nonvisual techniques and society's
low expectations for the blind prevents too many blind youth from developing
spatial reasoning skills and, if they desire, participating in engineering
or other fields that use these skills," said Mark A. Riccobono, President of
the National Federation of the Blind. "We have dedicated significant
resources to changing this unacceptable status quo, and we thank the
National Science Foundation and our partners at Utah State and the Science
Museum of Minnesota for helping us accelerate our progress and broaden our

"Since we know that spatial ability is such a strong indicator of success in
STEM education and STEM professions, we need to understand how it is
developed in our blind youth and how they utilize it in solving engineering
problems," said Dr. Wade Goodridge, Assistant Professor in Engineering
Education at Utah State University. "We can then develop methods to leverage
spatial thinking and help our students have better chances to succeed. My
team seeks to develop nonvisual techniques to facilitate, motivate, and open
pathways towards engineering, allowing blind youth to pursue a profession
they may have previously thought was not within their reach. We hope to
initiate a momentum that will enhance their engineering educational

"At the Science Museum of Minnesota, showing those who visit us and
participate in our programs that we are all scientists is at the heart of
what we do," said Alison Rempel Brown, president of the Science Museum of
Minnesota. "We're so pleased to partner with the National Federation of the
Blind and Utah State University to develop ways to bring engineering
education to blind students and create new pathways to success in the STEM

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science
Foundation under Grant No. 1712887. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions
or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and
do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is
the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded
in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the
fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of
blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families
with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We
believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to
transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and
initiatives at www.nfb.org
8> .



Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

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