Company receives grant from NSF to develop audio-based software that will help blind students learn
December 29, 2009
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A consulting firm that makes science more accessible to students affected by blindness and low vision has received $150,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation to develop audio-based software that will help affected students learn.
Independence Science, an affiliate of the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, will develop software to make the LabQuest science device more accessible to students affected by blindness or low vision (BLV). LabQuest is produced by Vernier Software & Technology, based in Beaverton, Ore.
"LabQuest is a portable device that collects and stores scientific data such as pH levels, temperatures, acceleration rates and blood pressure. It also helps users perform statistical analysis, import graphs and create lab reports," said Cary Supalo, president and founder of Independence Science. "But information is displayed on the device's LCD screen, which makes it difficult for students affected by BLV to access it. The funding from the National Science Foundation will assist in the development of an add-on text-to-speech component that provides verbal output to the user. The component's software will be developed to specifications set by my colleagues and me."
After the component has been tested by officials at Independence Science, it will be tested further at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis, followed by focus group testing at a conference of the National Federation of the Blind in Dallas in July.
Supalo said the company's goal is to allow people affected by blindness or low vision to actively participate in the collection of scientific data.
"If a school were to run an experiment using LabQuest, a teacher would probably collect data for students with BLV," he said. "My colleagues and I want this software to help students develop the confidence to use the device themselves, which may encourage them to pursue an advanced degree in the sciences."
About Independence Science LLC
Officials at Independence Science are making their expertise available to help school districts, colleges and universities, and state rehabilitation agencies across the country meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements in the science curriculum. These technologies are being made available to further serve as a dissemination tool to benefit any blind and low-vision student in the United States.
About Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette
The 725-acre Purdue Research Park has the largest university-affiliated business incubation complex in the country. The park is home to more than 160 companies. About 100 of these firms are technology-related and another 39 are incubator businesses. The park is owned and managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, a private, nonprofit foundation created to assist Purdue University in the area of economic development. In addition to the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, the foundation has established technology parks in other locations around Indiana including Indianapolis, Merrillville and New Albany.
To the Purdue Research Park, http://www.purdueresearchpark.co
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