MIT Engineers Develop Measuring Devices For Blind Students Learning STEM

Students from MIT have invented a Braille caliper, which allows blind students to be able to read and measure lengths and shapes.


In today’s world, the blind and low vision (BLV) community have been extremely underrepresented in the field of STEM. In the US alone, around 75% of BLV people are unemployed, and most BLV students drop out of STEM subjects after 8th grade. This comes as no surprise, as how are you supposed to learn geometry without being able to see shapes or how are you supposed to learn the Pythagorean theorem if you can’t see the measurements of the triangle?

This is the issue that MIT students Pranay Jain and Anshul Singhal are trying to solve. It was at the kindness of their hearts that they co-founded Squirrel Devices. And their first invention: A plastic sliding caliper in which the measurements are written in Braille. This allows BLV students to be able to measure lengths and shapes.

Source: MIT News

This isn’t the first time Jain and Singhai were in the assistive technology business- they had once worked on a Refreshable Braille Display back in their undergraduate years at the Indian Institute of Technology. They remember the time they spent there, wherein “One has a lot of questions when first interacting with the community. We wondered about using phrases like ‘take a look at this!’ or holding our hands out for a handshake. Would they care about the color of the device?” Apparently, colors do matter, because whilst BLV students can’t see colors, they know the connotations of pink or blue just like any teenager, which is why Squirrel Device’s caliper is yellow in color.

Source: MIT News

A lot of BLV students asked the MIT students for a talking digital measuring instrument. However, Jain and Singhai insisted on creating a more traditional and mechanical device. “We were repeatedly reminded that education is increasingly becoming digital, but you can’t listen to a diagram, can you?” says Jain. Also, digital devices are more difficult to create, and are either prone to electronic failure or are really expensive.

The MIT community has shown their full support for Squirrel devices, and even received assistance from IDEAS Global Challenge, a very well-known annual innovation service and social entrepreneurship competition.

Source: MIT News

Squirrel Devices had proven to be a success, as their Braille Caliper had already sold thousands of units in the past year, and even partnered with the National Braille Press. They also won the Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation. Currently, the team’s next invention is the Tactile Protractor, which is still in the works.

Article Sources:

MIT

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MIT Engineers Develop Measuring Devices For Blind Students Learning STEM

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