The IceBreaker

I received a grant in Feb to work with UArts’ (the University of the Arts in Philadelphia) design and art students to do qualitative research to explore what it would take to teach a  sample of 5 people with various disabilities to program and use an open source micro-controller called the Arduino. Some interesting questions beyond the teaching and learning issues are emerging as this project  continues to shape – can this tool (the micro-controller) really increase a person’s sense of independence, will it continue to be used after we are long gone, and how will working with people with disabilities affect me and my students i.e. how might we be changed…

In terms of recruiting folks for the project there’s been great reception. I have more students than I originally hoped for and more people with disabilities interested too. We all gathered today to meet each other and introduce the project in a small event we called The IceBreaker. Each UArts student also created a demo to show an example of what a micro-controller can do.

Introducing ourselves at the IceBreaker

Only four out of eight people with disabilities showed up … but we continued anyway. The UArts students each did their demo and there were some beautiful moments as I witnessed divergent worlds intersecting.

Michael and Joe getting to know each other

Michael was so curious and a bit amazed that any of us would be at all interested in helping someone with a disability. He stated that before he had his stroke he really only cared about one thing: m-o-n-e-y! Evidently he was quite a successful businessman and I think he said he owned 3 different businesses. He was so genuine and sincere and thankful to us. It will be interesting to see how our relationships develop over the course of the project…

Christine gives a demo to the group

Brigid’s Demo using a Ping sensor and a servo motor

Branden, Marsha, Kyle, Michael B (standing) and Mitchell in discussion

It felt like quite a successful day. The group seems very interested and not too intimidated by the technology. Hopefully everyone shows up for the first class…


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