Georgia Tech Hosts Robotics Camp for Visually Impaired

Forget about archery and canoeing. Campers participating in the ARoPability workshop, offered by Georgia Tech over the next two weeks, are learning how to build, program and test robots – despite their visual impairments.

Robotics Camp for Visually Impaired
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A student with a visual impairment learns how the robot needs to navigate the maze at a previous workshop. 

Twenty-five middle school and high school students are participating in the camp session held June 27 – July 7. It is presented by the Georgia Institute of Technology in partnership with WizKidz Science and Technology Centers and the Center for the Visually Impaired.

A goal of the workshop, which is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is to attract students with disabilities to the science, technology, math and engineering fields.

“Most students have basic computer and Internet experience but haven’t considered computer science or engineering as a career,” said Professor Ayanna Howard, a faculty member in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech who helped design the robotics program for the workshop. “Our goal is to give students tools to believe that they too can go into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.”

Students use the first week of the workshop to build their robots and compete in sumo style combat with other participants’ robots. During the second week, they work on programming a robot to navigate and complete a maze.

Howard adapted the Wii game system remote controller to give the campers sensory and auditory feedback based on a programming language. Even though they may not be able to see their robot, students will know if their robot is completing its programmed tasks.

“They feel and hear the robot go through a maze and then program the robot to do so,” Howard said.

The activity and the feedback she observes at this camp helps Howard with her research on developing robotics that communicate and assist the visually impaired, such as a fetch and carry robot or a navigational robot.

Rayshun Dorsey, founder of WizKidz Science and Technology Centers, worked with the Center for the Visually Impaired and Georgia Tech to develop the workshop, and more than 20 have been held across the United States including Atlanta, Colorado and Maryland.

“We want to show the world that blindness is not something that will hinder a student from progressing in any area,” Dorsey said. “We want these students to be excited about STEM careers just as much as any other children.”