This past week a small group of blind high school and college research students from across the country gathered with a local scientist, a disability and technology expert, and local musicians for a workshop at the Montana Conservation Science Institute in Missoula to brainstorm how they might adapt virtual biology lab software so it's accessible to blind students.
The project dubbed Sound Science was made possible by a National Science Foundation Grant from SimBiotic Software, a nationally recognized biology lab software developer based here in Missoula. Dr. Ellie Steinberg, vice-president of SimBiotic Software, and Dan Burke, assistant director and assistive technology coordinator of disability services at the University of Montana and president of the Montana Association for the Blind, led the students in a lively two-day brainstorming session.
Steinberg introduced the central idea of engaging local musicians in the project to help us come up with innovative ideas on how to use sound to represent elements in scientific graphs depicted in SimBio's software. Thanks so much to Eden Atwood, Claude Pineault, Jim Rogers and Amy Martin for their excellent ideas and demonstrations of sound that helped us advance the project.
We all learned so much and you certainly got our mental wheels rolling. Thank you, too, to the Craighead Wildlife/Wildlands Institute, the Rocky Mountain Eye Center Physicians and Marie and Clay Hopper for their contributions to the project. The Sound Science project Is off to a great start and, thanks to the efforts of this core group, there's a good chance that the educational experience of all students will be richer and there will be even more educational and career opportunities within reach of blind students.
Beth Underwood, project coordinator,
Environmental education specialist and Camp Eureka! director, Montana Conservation Science Institute, Missoula