The Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (WSBVI) is one of six Wisconsin schools named as finalists for Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Contest. The goal of the contest is for students to use Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills to create positive change in their communities.
Tim Fahlberg, a math teacher for the WSBVI, was encouraged to enter his students into the contest based on the fact that they are the first school in the nation to use existing technologies to make informational and directional signs accessible. “We use two technologies: NaviLens and WayAround to make signs accessible. In addition to making our school more accessible, we plan to help make communities in Wisconsin, especially schools, more accessible using these technologies as well.”
The NaviLens app offers scannable information (like QR codes) from up to 100 feet away without needing to focus, making directional and information signs “speak” for themselves. Marin, a student at the WSBVI, demonstrates how the app works at the school in one of a series of videos the students are making for the contest, including Spanish-language videos with Mimi, another student.
The WayAround app has a similar function, but with small metal tags that typically require the phone to be much closer to the object. Users can add information to the object for personal or public use.
Fahlberg emphasized a desire to expand beyond schools, “We want to help our local community of Janesville-the transit system, stores, etcetera- become more accessible using NaviLens and other technologies and then help NaviLens develop a USA version of their free School Kit and help other schools in our country that have blind/visually impaired students get started with them.”
By February, Samsung will narrow the field to 100 state winners. 20 finalists will be selected in March, who will present to a panel of judges in April for a chance to be named one of the top 5 national winners.
Fahlberg and his students plan to move forward with the project whether or not they make it to the final round. “It was great to get this first recognition, and if we move on that would be spectacular, but we will move on no matter what. The students are on fire for this,” he said. “They are young people-- their lives in the future could be different and improved because of their work.”