National Center for Blind Youth in Science

Basic Information

Grant number: 1322855
Funding agency: National Science Foundation
Duration of grant: 09/01/2013 - 08/31/2016
Award Amount: $1,538,811

Project Description:

The National Federation of the Blind NFB, with six science centers across the U.S., will develop, implement, and evaluate the National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS), a three-year full-scale development project to increase informal learning opportunities for blind youth in STEM. Through partnerships and companion research, the NCBYS will lead to greater capacity to engage the blind in informal STEM learning.

The NCBYS will expose blind youth to nonvisual methods that facilitate their involvement in STEM; introduce science centers to additional nonvisual methods that facilitate the involvement of the blind in their exhibits; educate parents as to their students’ ability to be independent both inside and outside the STEM classroom; provide preservice teachers of blind students with hands-on experience with blind students in STEM; and conduct research to inform a field that is lacking in published material. The NCBYS will:

  • conduct six regional, two-day science programs for a total of 180 blind youth, one day taking place at a local science center;
  • conduct concurrent onsite parent training sessions;
  • incorporate preservice and early service teachers of blind students in hands-on activities; and
  • perform separate, week-long, advanced-study residential programs for 60 blind high school juniors and seniors focused on the design process.

The initiative is a unique opportunity for science centers and the disability population to collaborate for mutual benefit, with lasting implications in informal STEM delivery, parent engagement, and teacher training. It is also an innovative approach to inspiring problem-solving skills in blind high school students through the design process.

The audience includes students and those responsible for delivering STEM content and educational services to blind students. For students, the program will demonstrate their ability to interface with science center activities. Students will also gain mentoring experience through activities paired with younger blind students. Parents and teachers of blind students, as well as science center personnel, will gain understanding in the experiences of the blind in STEM, and steps to facilitate their complete involvement. Older students will pursue design inquiries into STEM at a more advanced level, processes that would be explored in post-secondary pursuits. By engaging these groups, the NCBYS will build infrastructure in the informal and formal arenas.

The results of the proposed project will be disseminated and published broadly through Web sites; e-mail lists; social media; student-developed e-portfolios of the design program; an audio-described video; and presentations at workshops for STEM educators, teachers of blind students, blind consumer groups, researchers in disability education, and museum personnel.

Program Details

NFB STEM2U is coming to a city near you during the 2015-2016 school year! NFB STEM2U will provide great learning opportunities to elementary and high school aged blind students, parents of blind children, and teachers working with blind students. Learn more about the NFB STEM2U programs to be held in Phoenix, San Francisco and Minneapolis in the coming year, by visiting Past programs were held in Baltimore, Boston and Columbus.The application period for the 2015-2016 school year is now closed. 

Project Team

Principal Investigator: Mark A. Riccobono, President, National Federation of the Blind

Co-Principal Investigator: Christine Reich, director of research and evaluation at the Museum of Science, Boston

Project Director: Natalie Shaheen, director of education at the NFB Jernigan Institute

Researcher: Dr. Tiffany Wild, assistant professor in the department of teaching and learning at The Ohio State University

Evaluator: Dr. Joe Heimlich, senior research associate at Lifelong Learning Group

More Information

More information about the programs to be conducted as a part of this initiative will be posted here as the information becomes available. This information will include:

  • Program dates and locations
  • Applications for prospective program participants
  • Links to articles and other publications about the programs
  • Information specifically for parents, teachers, and blind students

In addition to visiting this Web site, you can receive updates about the program by following @NFBScience on Twitter. If you have questions or would like more information about this project, please contact

Mark A. Riccobono
President, National Federation of the Blind

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1322855.
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.