Asee peer logo

Engaging Students with Visual Impairments or Blindness through Comprehensive and Accessible Engineering Experiences

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division Poster Session: Works in Progress

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


A. Leyf Peirce Starling The Engineering Place, North Carolina State University

visit author page

Leyf Peirce Starling received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2003 and a Master of Arts in teaching with a focus on Special Education from UNC-Charlotte in 2010. She has teaching experience in both formal and informal educational settings. She has taught 6th, 7th and 8th grade math, science, social studies and reading comprehension and high school physics and aerospace engineering in North Carolina public and private schools. During the summers of 2013 and 2014, She served as the Academic Director for the Middle School Summer Math Camp and Middle School and High School Biosciences and Engineering Camps at Duke University. She has extensive experience in curriculum development as an editor for and a lead developer for four Race to the Top courses on aerospace, automation and security. She has also served as a consultant for Michigan State's Research Experiences for Teachers program for the last three years. Currently, she is the Program Coordinator at the Engineering Place at North Carolina State University, where she also teaches an Introduction to Engineering course to incoming freshmen and lead the first ever Summer Engineering Experience for Students with Visual Impairments or Blindness at NC State University. She is also the Program Manager for the NSF funded Grand Challenges Themed Research Experience for Teachers program at NC State University.

visit author page


Diane Brauner Perkins School for the Blind

visit author page

Diane Brauner is an educational accessibility consultant currently collaborating with Perkins School for the Blind to create and manage the Paths to Technology - a website for educators to learn and stay current on technology for students with visual impairments and blindness (VIB). With the accessibility team at SAS, Diane has participated in a variety of assistive technology projects for students with (VIB) and to provide iPad accessibility trainings for teachers of students with VIB. Diane participated with the 2015 Summer Engineering Experience for Students with VIB. With 25 years experience as a Certified Orientation and Mobility instructor, Diane has taught primarily in the school setting with preschool and school age students with VIB. She holds degrees in Rehabilitation, Elementary Education, Visual Impairments, Hearing Impairments and Orientation and Mobility.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Engaging high school women and minority students in high impact engineering experiences offers a promising means to educate and inspire these students to pursue STEM degrees and careers. Not only do the students obviously benefit from pursuing degrees in the STEM fields, but the bring welcomed diversity to STEM research and practice. A frequently overlooked minority group is students with disabilities, specifically students with visual impairments or blindness (VIB). Often lacking access to advanced math and science courses in high school as well as lacking opportunities to engage in STEM activities outside of the classroom, this population of students may be less likely to pursue STEM fields. Therefore, it is essential to continue developing engaging opportunities and activities that expose these particular students to engineering practices and problem solving applications. Socially relevant, hands-on engineering activities can provide multisensory engagement allowing students with VIB to access science and math content. With minor modifications and implementations of assistive technology, exposing students with VIB to engineering activities can provide further access to engineering career paths as well as to strategies to teach and assess math and science concepts. 

As summer camps are not confined to teaching specific state science or math standards, they provide an excellent platform in which to generate novel methods of instruction, assessment, and curriculum, including how to adapt existing curriculum to meet the needs of all students. The results from tested interventions in camp settings may lead to promising practices that teachers can implement in their classrooms including how to appropriately incorporate assistive technology. During the summer of 2015, a diverse team of engineering educators, curriculum development specialists, special educators, teachers of visually impaired students (TVIs), orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists, science teachers, and undergraduate engineering and education students, developed and implemented a comprehensive program to address aspects of skills needed to transition to college as well as an overview of the engineering grand challenges, engineering design process, and engineering habits of mind. Through a week-long, residential Summer Engineering Experience for Students with VIB, nine 10th - 12th grade students with VIB explored engineering practices and current engineering research while living on a college campus and developing independent and transition skills needed to be successful in post-high school settings. Additionally, this summer engineering experience allowed us to explore the efficacy of adapting existing engineering actives as well as employing appropriate assistive technology that can be used to access engineering concepts. Results from preliminary data collected from this underrepresented population of students further allow us to examine the efficacy of increasing student understanding of engineering practices and habits of mind while simultaneously incorporating "tech time outs" during the camp experience, i.e. explicit instruction on how to effectively use assistive technology in a variety of settings. The results suggest promising practices in engaging students with VIB in engineering activities while supporting transition to college skills in a summer camp setting. This paper will also explore replication models of this camp as well as implementation of these practices in school year settings.

Starling, A. L. P., & Brauner, D. (2016, June), Engaging Students with Visual Impairments or Blindness through Comprehensive and Accessible Engineering Experiences Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26979

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015