Blind scholar, entrepreneur shares tips to increase students' interest in the sciences

November 30, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Educators can strengthen their students' interest and understanding of science, technology, engineering and math by incorporating liberal arts teaching techniques in their curricula, says a blind scholar and entrepreneur.

"I've found that these methods work very well for all students, including those who have learning or physical disabilities," said Cary Supalo, founder of the Purdue Research Park-based company Independence Science LLC, which develops technology to make science laboratory experiments more accessible to students with visual impairments.

"People who are blind, have low vision or learning disabilities traditionally have been underrepresented both in science classrooms and professions," said Supalo, a Purdue University alumnus who earned his doctorate in chemistry from the Pennsylvania State University. "I believe that the multiple teaching methods that teachers use in liberal arts to make subject matter come alive for their students can do the same for students in the sciences."

Supalo shared three methods teachers can use to increase interest and understanding in science curricula.

* Use presentations that convey information through multi-modal approaches. Educators who present science materials in multiple modes such as visual, oral, demonstration and audio/visual films can aid students who have disabilities in learning. An example is to heat water in a soda can, and then dip it into cold water. The can is crushed, and students will hear a little pop.

* Create hands-on laboratory experiences that are visual, tactile and produce sounds. Multiple forms of feedback in the laboratory classroom enhance the learning experience.

* Relate science concepts to everyday experiences. When students can relate science concepts to aspects in their everyday lives, it can aid in their retention of the knowledge and further foster their interest in the subject matter. An example is determining how many miles per gallon a vehicle achieves. Using unit conversions is critical for students to determine how far they can drive and how much money they need.

For more information on how teachers can strengthen interest in science, technology, engineering and math courses for students affected with visual impairments or to speak with Supalo, call 814-441-2589 or e-mail

Supalo and colleagues from Independence Science accepted an invitation to participate in the National Disability Awareness Day celebration in the White House that will take place Friday (Dec. 3).

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.

Steve Martin, 765-588-3342,

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