Purdue Research Park to hold STEM assistive technology conference - Purdue Exponent: Campus

Purdue Research Park to hold STEM assistive technology conference

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Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012 10:00 am

A conference today is discussing advancements in technology for people with disabilities.

Roger Tower, the marketing director of Independence Science, a Purdue Research Park-based firm that’s hosting the event, said the conference is an opportunity for people to see what has been created to help teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics to people with disabilities.

“The purpose is to start conversation about technologies for people with disabilities,” Tower said.

The conference, known as the Independence Science: Learning a New Direction, will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Herman and Heddy Kurz Purdue Technology Center, 1281 Win Hentschel Blvd. The event is free and open to the public and will include a continental breakfast and lunch. Tower said new technologies will be demonstrated. There will also be discussion over topics such as using new tools for the blind to help them learn science and mathematics.

“It’s a nice recap to see what’s expected to be done,” Tower said.

An example of these new technologies is the ability for a computer to print out data in a tactile graph so that someone who is blind can read and analyze the data.

One of the presenters at the talk, Lillian Rankel, said she will be discussing learning experiences in STEM in kindergarten to 12th grade levels.

“We’re going to be talking about different tactile ways children can learn about science,” she said.

Rankel, who works for MDW Education Services, a group who consults educators about teaching science to students who are blind or have low vision, said disabilities should not limit students from taking a STEM major. She mentioned a blind student she once had who is now a computer programmer for Mozilla Firefox. Because of the new technology available, blindness and other disabilities are less limiting for an aspiring STEM major.

“There are a lot of jobs available,” Rankel said. “There are a lot of fields impaired STEM majors can go into.”

Rankel will have interactive models and ramps for children to learn about physics. She said these models are beneficial to even disabled children and are a better way to teach them about science and physics.

“They find that science and technology are a lot of fun ... you really have to learn with a hands-on activity,” Rankel said.

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