MLEF Grant Supports ML Makers/MLHS Project

MLEF Grant Supports ML Makers/MLHS Project
Posted on 11/21/2019

The Mountain Lakes Educational Foundation awarded a grant to the Mountain Lakes Public Library Makerspace to fund resources which assist the Makerspace's innovative collaboration with Mountain Lakes High School.  

The MLEF's grant purchased a fine-resolution large-base 3d printer, fast processing laptop which enables improved rendering of objects, and a 3d scanner.  Ian Matty, Manager of the ML Public Library Makerspace and Brandon Horn, MLHS Computer Science teacher created a long term Build a Better Book project which provides MLHS students the opportunity to design and build real, working tactile game prototypes for visually impaired students.  

Ian Matty and the Mountain Lakes Public Library are an official training partner of Build a Better Book, an NSF funded organization based at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Build a Better Book's mission is to educate librarians, teachers, and students how to create better tactile book and game experiences using makerspace technologies, such as 3d printing, for visually impaired students.  

Throughout this innovative program, students learned about physical and digital world accessibility challenges and brainstormed ideas on how to improve accessibility and the iterative design process which focuses on continuous improvement.  Students developed their ideas and learned how makerspace technologies such as 3d design, 3d printing, digital cutters, laser cutters, and Arduinos would assist them in bringing their ideas to life.  

During the prototyping project phase students received real world feedback from Build a Better Book, visually impaired teachers from the Sonoma County Office of Education, a teacher who is visually impaired, DJ Dr. Dre of Yo MTV Raps! who recently became blind, and PhD students from the University of Colorado.  

MLHS students did a wonderful job presenting their ideas and asking questions.  Students reflected on this feedback and improved their projects. One student group made a major re-design of their project after feedback suggested that their design would need too much adult assistance to play.

Reflecting upon this feedback, the group kept their core idea, but worked on making the activity completely kid friendly for both visually impaired and sighted students.  This group's work highlights an important design / learning experience; students need to think about designing "with" and not "for" visually impaired students.  Oftentimes digital applications, websites, and information are not accessible because of poor programming and design.  Students have learned that with proper planning, accessibility for everyone is achievable. 

The newly granted laptop and 3d printer were in constant use, printing the students' projects.  After the students completed their first prototypes, the games and activities that they created were taken to the St. Joseph's School for the Blind in Jersey City.  A Middle School teacher and visually impaired students played with and tested the MLHS projects for ninety minutes.  The students loved the projects!  

A St. Joseph's School for the Blind student plays with the Hexagon Marble Track Puzzle, which was 3d designed and printed.
Blind student playing with game

St. Joseph's students provided excellent feedback on how to improve the tactile experience with each project, providing the MLHS students with a wonderful opportunity to continue the design process and create a final product.  St. Joseph's was so impressed with the quality and diversity of the MLHS student projects that they would like to set up a field trip, where St. Joseph's and MLHS students can work side by side, achieving one of the primary project goals.

Student projects are: Tactile Risk!, Android Maze App with Physical Maze Overlay, Android Snakes and Ladders App with Physical Game Board Overlay, Hexagon Marble Track Puzzle, Tactile Math [7 Bridges of Konigsberg puzzle and Pascal's Triangle], and a Music application which allows students to learn notes, as well as record their own loops.

It is very exciting that students with different backgrounds will be collaborating to create final versions of these projects. The MLEF granted 3d printer demonstrated to the MLHS students that their ideas can become a reality.  This innovative project is possible because of the support of the Mountain Lakes Public Library,  ML Public Library Director Jennifer Lynch, Brandon Horn, MLHS administration, Mountain Lakes Educational Foundation, Build a Better Book, Neal Mckenzie, Leslie Edmonds, Eli Sanchez, and St. Joseph's School for the Blind.  

Tactile Risk!, Hex Marble Track Puzzle, and Tactile Math were all selected to be part of the upcoming Build a Better Book Exhibit at the Boulder Colorado Public Library which premiers December 7th.  This collaborative program demonstrates how our global world is connected.   Educational opportunities can be expanded in many directions.   Stay tuned to hear about the final projects in the future.  

Finally, in addition to all of the wonderful BBB project work, the MLEF granted laptop, 3d printer, and scanner will be working this Spring during the first ever Girl Scout 3d Custom Design and Create Derby Car activity.  These resources bring student's ideas to life, modeling the power of creativity for them.

For more information, please contact Ian at [email protected]
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