Science, technology, engineering, and math to the extreme!

A teen uses nonvisual methods to perform a chemistry experiment

The NFB Jernigan Institute was pleased to hold the newest National Center for Blind Youth in Science program—NFB STEM-X. This inquiry-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program provided students with learning opportunities in STEM disciplines ranging from engineering and robotics to the science of cooking. The program, held in the Baltimore metropolitan area on the campus of Towson University from July 29 to August 3, 2013 served fifty blind high school students from around the country.

The “X” in the program’s title draws inspiration from the aerospace community, where historically programs and missions have utilized the letter as an abbreviation for exploration, and as a statement that the effort seeks new solutions and new discoveries that surpass previously assumed barriers to scientific advancement. In this same way, the NFB STEM-X program challenges the notion that blind people are unable to pursue STEM fields, or on a larger scale, are predestined to a life of social welfare and government dependence.

A young man backs away quickly as soda explodes out of a 2 literStudents chose from one of five focus disciplines (chemistry, computer science, engineering, robotics, and space science) in which to specialize during NFB STEM-X. Students spent half of each of the four instructional days engaged in their focus discipline, learning alongside fellow high school students with blind and sighted STEM professionals as their guides. All five focus disciplines worked collaboratively throughout the program, capitalizing on each other’s specialization to innovate creative solutions to complex problems.

Outside of their work in their focus discipline, students had the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities that provided them with authentic learning experiences in a wider variety of STEM disciplines. Evenings were filled with activities that helped students develop their leadership skills and built their confidence while having fun and socializing with blind teens from across the country.

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