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Germanna grad invents device to help low vision children learn shapes and colors
A 2014 Germanna Community College engineering grad headed for Virginia Tech this fall has invented a device to help visually impaired children learn shapes and colors and he wants to give it to teachers and students for free.
The Color Creator is a high contrast tool for teachers working with the blind and visually impaired, said GCC grad Reuben Strangelove of Spotsylvania County.
He said it serves two purposes–one as a functional assessment tool and another as a high contrast education platform.
The device is about the size of an iPad. It has an 8-inch by 6-inch screen, is 10 inches by 10 inches overall and weighs about a pound. It has tactile color controls and andio feedback with an onboard speaker and headphone jack, as well as an external keypad with braille markings.
Strangelove said making the device sleek and tablet-like is important, because if it was bulky, having it on their desks would make visually impaired students more self conscious in a classroom setting.
“Other machines are the size of the desk,” said Noelle Davoy, who teaches low vision students full time in the King George County school system. “They’re already self-conscious enough having to use bifocals and magnifying glasses.”
“This is cool,” Davoy said. “It’s like pulling out the iPad all the kids want to bring to school. It makes the vision impaired kids feel better about it.”
Davoy has used the Color Creator, which is also more versatile in providing color options, trying it first to help a 10-year-old boy in King George.
“Sometimes its hard for us to tell what they can see at all and how far away they can see things from,” she said. “They start recognizing colors and objects.” She said the latter is “always an amazing thing to have happen.”
“I can put a toothbrush or a bowl on top of it to enhance the shape and they learn to identify the specific shapes that go with those things–things that their peers in preschool get so quickly because they can see it,” Davoy said. “And you’d be surprised what they can see once they understand the shapes of what they’re looking at.”
Strangelove said the originally intended purpose was solely as to provide an aid for teachers of the blind and visually impaired, “but I don’t see why parents couldn’t use it as well.”
A lesson plan has been developed to be distributed with the device as a booklet, Strangelove said.
The next step is finding sponsors to allow Strangelove and Germanna engineering students to build at least 10 units to be distributed to local teachers of the visually impaired free of charge, he said. Each unit will cost $90 to build, he said, adding that Germanna students will construct the units on a volunteer basis so they can acquire practical, hands-on experience. And the devices would be given away to teachers and students.
“The hope is it will give [the Germanna students] a sense of accomplishment through community service,” said Strangelove, who was part of a GCC engineering student team that bested Yale and over a dozen other major colleges in a contest to design and fly an unmanned aerial vehicle last spring working with Prof. Davyda Hammond.
If he can find sponsors for the Color Creator, the device may do a lot more than provide Germanna students with a sense of accomplishment.
For more information, go to www.colorcreator.org.