Press Release

Partnership Between NASA and National Federation of the Blind Allows Vision-Challenged Students to Reach New Heights

By SpaceRef Editor
July 21, 2005
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For the second year in a row, a collaborative effort between the National Federation of the Blind and NASA, has allowed blind high school students the opportunity to become real rocket scientists.

Earlier this week, the eleven students learned about the history of rocketry, the physics associated with rocket launches and basic electronics.  They then had the opportunity to build electronic circuits for sensors that were installed on a rocket they helped launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), Wallops Island, VA at 8:20 a.m. EDT today.

Through audible signals, the students were able to determine the readiness of their experiments and the rocket. The student-built electrical circuits allowed them to measure light, temperature, acceleration and pressure during the rocket’s flight.

Over the past week, the students were involved with presentations and activities at both the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore and NASA Wallops.  Topics included an overview of launch operations, trajectory planning, circuit building, launch pad operations and developing countdown procedures.  The students learned about how data can be collected, reviewed and analyzed.  They also received presentations on space exploration and astronomy and were given a tour of NASA facilities.

“With about 100,000 blind and visually impaired students in the United States, there is a growing need for alternative methods to teach visual subjects and NASA is a leader in this area,” said Dr. Adena Williams Loston, NASA Chief Education Officer. “The space agency has created 3-D physical models to illustrate the topography of the Earth, the sun and planets.”

Mark Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, added “This collaborative effort between the NFB and NASA is working to eliminate the perception that blind students can not comprehend complex scientific concepts simply because they cannot see. With the right adaptive resources and encouragement, blind children can reach for the stars just as many blind NASA scientists and engineers are already doing.”

 Note To News Media:  The students involved with today’s launch will hold a press conference tomorrow, Friday, July 22, 2005, at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore beginning at 9 a.m. EDT to talk about their experience and present their preliminary results from the sensors they built and flew on the rocket. Reporters wishing to cover the event should contact NFB’s Linda McCarty at 410-659-9314, ext. 2220, to arrange accreditation and access to the event.

SpaceRef staff editor.