Press Release

Space: The Next Frontier for the Blind; NFB and NASA Create Science Camp for High School Students

By SpaceRef Editor
August 12, 2004
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Twelve blind high school students from all over the United States will soon be venturing where no blind students have ever gone before; to a NASA-supported rocket science camp in Maryland from August 15-21, 2004. “Rocket On!”, an inaugural project of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, is a unique opportunity for blind students to experience science in a new way. This weeklong program will be led by teachers who are blind with the assistance of blind scientists and the resources and facilities of NASA.

“What we are doing is revolutionary,” said Mark Riccobono, Manager of Education Programs for the NFB Jernigan Institute. “For the first time, we are putting together blind students and blind teachers and working with NASA to develop the tools and techniques that will get more blind kids excited about science.”

With about 100,000 blind and visually impaired students in the U.S., there is a growing need for alternative methods to teach visual subjects. NASA is a leader in this area creating 3-D physical models to illustrate the topography of the Earth and planets. The NFB Jernigan Institute and NASA scientists, both blind and sighted, will use similar models to teach the basics of rocket science to the camp participants. Ultimately, the NFB Jernigan Institute will become a central clearinghouse for adaptive educational resources for teachers. There is currently no single source for such materials in the U.S.

“Our goal is to eliminate the perception that blind children are unable to comprehend challenging scientific concepts simply because they cannot see,” said Mark Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “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.”

The students will design and prepare a payload at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore and launch their rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., on August 19.

Participating in the camp are: Amy Herstein and Nikki Singh, Ellicott City, Md.; Tiffani Clements, Ramona, Calif.; Justin Harford, Chico, Calif.; Justin Hodge, Bunker Hill, Ind.; Alysha Jeans, Wichita, Kan.; Meghan Joost, Chicago, Ill.; Daniel Ramirez, Bronx, N.Y.; Ryan Thomas, Tucson, Ariz.; Henry Wedler, Petaluma, Calif.; Lindsay Yazzolino, Issaquah, Wash.; and David Abraham, Albuquerque, N.M.

“Rocket On!” has received funding from the National Federation of the Blind; Lockheed Martin Foundation; Maryland Space Grant Consortium; Southeast Regional Clearinghouse; and invaluable support from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. For additional information, contact Linda J. McCarty, 410- 659-9314, , or visit .

SpaceRef staff editor.