This NASA pilot project aims to develop a program to use 3D prints of stellar phenomena to facilitate the teaching of astronomy and astrophysics to blind and visually impaired students. These 3D print models will provide qualitative feedback equivalent to that attained by sighted students through visual media. Such qualitative data supplements the quantitative subject matter of these disciplines. The ultimate goal is to develop a solution and a pedagogy, that is sustainable and will last multiple generations, for teaching astronomy to the blind and visually impaired population, motivating this much-neglected audience to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. We also hope to inspire other researchers to make their data and simulations accessible and to bring the wonder of astronomy to those blind and visually impaired persons who are not interested in STEM careers.

The tools that this project develops will certainly be transferable to other engineering and scientific fields, because STEM pedagogies and tools are common to all technical disciplines, thereby demonstrating and inspiring blind and visually impaired students to seek career paths that they thought were unobtainable. This will lead to the reduction of unemployment rates that approach or exceed seventy percent as more students pursue STEM careers.

Stereolithography files and curricula will be created at various grade levels that will be delivered online and integrated into lesson plans to supplement the quantitative subject matter of these disciplines for blind students. Lesson plans using the 3D models will be adapted from materials already developed by NASA (see e.g. http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/home.html) with the help of blind researchers and education specialists. Lessons will cover topics such as size/scale in the Universe, geometry, physical origins of nebulae, stellar evolution, binary stars, eccentric orbits, massive stars, stellar mass loss, stellar evolution, stellar temperatures and radiation, and stellar spectra. The models will be created from the STL files and donated or will be created by the teaching agents locally with affordable 3D printers. Initial 3D print models will be printed at NASA for testing. The use of various materials also will be explored to create more durable models that will be able to hold up to the constant handling that will be required by blind and visually impaired students. Experts from the NASA Goddard Office of Education will assist in the packaging and dissemination of the 3D models and curricula to local schools for the blind and visually impaired in the United States. Project team members in Mexico and Austria will help translate the developed lesson plans into Spanish and German for similar dissemination in those countries.

Our work will focus on true 3D data obtained from spectral mapping observations and supercomputer simulations, as opposed to 2D images. It will be performed in collaboration with NASA scientists; engineers; education specialists; professional educators of blind and visually impaired students; and blind consumers. Studies also will be performed, assessing the effectiveness of the 3D models on improving student understanding of specific topics, assisted by the NASA Goddard Office of Education.

This project also will serve as a test bed and proof of concept for a much larger international project that will create a wide variety of 3D print models and lesson plans, covering a large variety of astrophysical concepts and phenomena. However, we need this project to be successful so that we can collect and publish data demonstrating the usefulness of our approach. Your completion of this survey will be the first important step in the collection of data. The survey results will help us determine how best to proceed.

Our work thus far has been very successful and rewarding, but we need your help. Thank you.

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* 1. Please do not take this survey if you are sighted.

Are you blind/visually impaired or sighted?

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* 2. Do you have a STEM degree?

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* 3. If you have a STEM degree, what field is it in and what degree is it?

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* 4. If you do not have a STEM degree, did you avoid getting a STEM degree and/or STEM courses because of the visual way that STEM material is currently presented?

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* 5. What methods and techniques have you used, e.g., braille, raised line drawings, 3-D models, etc. to study STEM subjects?

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* 6. If you have used braille to study STEM subjects, what code did you use?

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* 7. Did you develop your STEM methods and techniques on your own or did your teacher use them as teaching tools?

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* 8. If you did not or have not used 3-D models, do you think that they would have helped you learn STEM material?

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* 9. If you think that 3-D models would have helped you learn STEM material, how would you have liked to use them?

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* 10. If you did use or have used 3-D models, did they help you learn STEM material?

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* 11. If you did use or have used 3-D models, how did you use them to learn STEM materials?

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* 12. Have you ever taught STEM subjects to other blind or visually impaired students?

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* 13. Have you ever incorporated 3-D models into your teaching methods?

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* 14. If you have ever incorporated 3-D models into your teaching methods, how have you used them?

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* 15. If you have not incorporated 3-D models into your teaching methods, would you use them?

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