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Soldering wires nonvisually is .. well, a BLAST! @BlackbyrdFly @COSpaceGrant

Jamie talks to Maddie while she works with components on a breadboard

Somebody had to do it. So Jamie Principato decided she would take the skills she’d learned and taught herself as a blind Physics student involved with a Colorado Space Grant rocket project and teach them to other blind students. That’s where the idea of BLAST came from – Blind Learning All Skills Too launched on August 10 with the express purpose of teaching other blind people the skill of soldering small electronic devices, the precursors of instruments like those Principato and other students at Arapahoe Community College (ACC) built earlier to send high into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Naturally, we were excited to host the BLAST project’s first-ever soldering and circuitry workshop for blind participants. Principato, after all, had tutored some of our college-bound students in math before she graduated from ACC in 2016 and moved on to CU-Boulder last fall. When she started planning BLAST and needed workshop space and blind participants, we saw an excellent opportunity to rekindle our partnership.

So we collected 11 blind participants, from high school students to a former volunteer fire fighter and blind grandparents. Evenour long-time Tech Instructor Chip Johnson got into the act. Jamie collected volunteers from among her friends and fellow Space Grant participants to teach the concepts in a one-day workshop at CCB.

Leon, Jay ,and J.D. look at a tactile schematic diagram while a volunteer points out specific featuresThe morning started with a tactile diagram of an electrical continuity tester developed by blind artist jenny Callahan, proceeded to learning and practicing soldering wires with nonvisual techniques, and finally to a practice assembly of the device using a breadboard and other electronic components. After lunch, the assembly was for keeps and the final soldering completed the continuity tester. Everybody took home a working device.

Jamie doesn’t plan to leave it at that. In fact, she was one of five finalists for this summer’s $25,000 Holman Prize. Now she’s looking for other funding to take BLAST to the next level – a project to build instruments that will be part of a payload that is sent into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The proof of concept is a success though, and it clears the way for participants to further develop their skills like soldering that can lead to following their curiosity in a hobby, in education or employment.

The sky’s the limit … or rather, the sky’s the target. There are no limits!

Laura cuts some electrical tape
Leon works with some wire using the Helping Hands clips


Trevor talks to J.D. while he works with some wire and the Helping Hands Clips
Looking down the table as Mickey, Chip, Evan and Maddie work - Two volunteers on the other side of the table interact with the students


General Colorado Center Information

How many ways can the blind enjoy #Eclipse2017? #ShareLittleton

A Large group of CCB staff and students outside observing the eclipse. Some are wearing eclipse glasses while they listen to a live audio description

Quite a few, it turns out.

Staff and students held an Eclipse Party to celebrate and enjoy the 92 percent coverage of the sun today. Students in Home Management prepared a black bean salsa and cookies to start things off about 10:30 this morning as we took time to learn a little more about the eclipse.

Among our tools was the recently published Getting a Feel for Solar Eclipses, published by NASA. It featured tactile (and colorful) graphics of a solar eclipse and a tactile map of the United States depicting the path of totality.

In addition to this, many downloaded the iOS app Eclipse Soundscapes, which featured rumble maps that vibrated to show the brightest spots of such features as Bailey’s Beads, as well as audio descriptions of the peak event timed to our locale. We broadcast these using a bluetooth speaker. The app was developed by the National Park Service, Science Friday and Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Leon wears eclipse glasses and takes a look as the eclipse gets startedOf course we also obtained 25 pairs of eclipse sunglasses for sighted staff and those of us who have some residual vision and wanted to try and see the event. Sleepshades, usually a requirement for any student with no more than light perception, were not required for the event.

We were all out on the edge of our parking lot, watching and listening as the day grew dimmer and the temperature dropped from about 80 degrees to around 74 degrees.

Over in the shadow of the trees several of the group observed the progress of the eclipse as the sunny spots between the shadows of the leaves slowly grew smaller – a natural version of the pinhole approach of watching an eclipse.

Afterwards, we all went inside and were treated to a pizza lunch by the CCB Student Association.

Oh yeah, it was a real party!

Yolanda and Chip looking at the Eclipse Tactile Graphics
Close up of Eclipse Tactile Graffic
Eclipse Soundscapes App featuring Baily's Beads


A view of the sun during the eclipse - lense flairs show the actual eclipse shape
Tree leaf shadows make a natural pin hole eclipse viewer on the CCB flagstone in the front garden


General Colorado Center Information

Thanks for stopping by for our 2017 #WesternWelcomeWeek Tours!

a montage of WWW tour of photos described in the caption

Row 1: Lia uses a Perkins Brailler to write names in Braille while 3 smiling Children stand around with their Dad. Three children reference a Braille alphabet card and use the muffin tin and tennis balls to make letters; A retired couple looks at the historical photos on the wall; Peter shows a group how he uses the iPhone to identify money.
Row 2: Daniel demonstrates to a large crowd how to throw the Goal Ball; One boy about 14 takes a turn wearing the sleepshades and throwing the Goal Ball; An early middle school aged boy blocks the ball with Cezar; (Center) A large group is gathered around the table in the Travel Lobby while Jay talks about the model of Englewood Station; Cody talks to a group in the kitchen about why it is important for Blind people to learn to cook in a standard kitchen; 8 year-old Naomi touches the dots while her mom holds open a Braille Cook Book;
Row 3: A large group in the wood shop gathers around Jesse as he sands a shield-shaped piece of wood he is making into his Family Crest. Anthony shows people how to use the sensational Blackboard to make tactile drawings. Yolanda works with two Middle School aged girls who close their eyes and touch a sculpture of a Bear with a Fish in its mouth and try to guess what it is.

More than 70 people stopped by the Colorado Center for the Blind on Monday for a tour, and we’d like to send out a big “Thank you!” to all of you!

This is the third year we’ve opened our doors for tours as part of Littleton’s Western Welcome Week. We’re always excited to meet new neighbors who want to find out what we’re all about. This year, we even had some who returned for a second time!

So, thanks to all who came and if you couldn’t make it, we’ll be part of WWW next year too – and we’ll see you in the parade on Saturday!

General Colorado Center Information

Come one, come all! Tour CCB from 3-7 PM today for #WesternWelcomeWeek!

Two women pass a large ball with perforations back and forth in the gym
Two visitors test out the goal ball at our 2016 tour.

We’re excited to open our doors to the Littleton community once again during Western Welcome Week. We will give tours to all comers between 3 and 7 p.m. today. Our students will be in their classes and staff will talk about what we teach in each area – Braille, Cane Travel, Home Management, Technology and Wood Shop. we’ll also show visitors our gym with exercise stations and goal ball court, and have stops to learn about our art and STEM programming.

This is the third year we’ve held tours, and the turnout is always enthusiastic! We’re fortunate and proud to be a part of such a supportive community in Littleton!

Here’s more on the 2017 Western Welcome Week Events page.