This following post first appeared at 3D-Print.com. BRIDGET BUTLER MILLSAPS
With all the hoopla and headlines surrounding 3D printing innovation, it’s also good to get back to basics and focus on the major impact this technology can have in the classrooms – especially in those of the visually impaired.
Educational tools geared specifically toward blind students can improve their quality of life substantially, as well as improve drop-out rates across the board. The team at LibraryLyna is on a mission to create and provide both teacher and student accessibility to these educational tools by hosting the largest collection of high quality, educational 3D models to foster learning of the blind and visually impaired.
“Kevin’s simple, practical concept is revolutionary and will transform the education of the blind and visually impaired,” said Marc Ashton, CEO of Foundation for Blind Children.
Currently, according to the census, around 88% of citizens 25 years and older in the U.S. have attained a high school degree or equivalent, while only 32.2% of visually impaired in the U.S. age 21 years and older have a high school diploma or equivalent. While visual status and educational status are not what define a person, anything that can be done to improve either of those issues is nothing but positive.
Through raising the bar, as well as the texture and dimension of learning tools for the blind, LibraryLyna also hopes to raise enthusiasm levels and expectations for graduation rates. Many teachers of visually impaired students are left with the frustrating and somewhat heartbreaking task of trying to teach their students while lacking the proper tools, forcing them to try and make homemade resources on their own. This would be a task for teachers instructing students who are not visually impaired, thus understandably making the challenge virtually impossible for TVIs.
“Many times, it is too difficult to create these models from scratch. We focus on creating and hosting this ‘missing’ educational material,” Kevin Yang, President and Founder of LibraryLyna, told 3DPrint.com. “We are actively trying to level the playing field; maybe with our help, blind students will have the same opportunities as their sighted peers.”
Yang’s father, Dr. Peichun Yang, is the co-founder of LibraryLyna. The senior Yang is a blind engineer and scientist with a Ph.D in Material Science. Having lost his sight 17 years ago, he has years of knowledge when it comes to technology to aid the visually impaired.
The young and very bright Kevin Yang does not remember a time when his dad could see, and he sometimes endured great frustration and challenge in trying to explain his creative and interesting ideas to his father. Eventually he was intrigued and inspired by 3D printing because he discovered an excellent method of demonstrating and communicating ideas and designs to the elder Yang.
With this inspiration and motivation, he felt he was given a purpose in life at a young age.
“3D modeling came with a good amount of struggling and frustration, but fortunately the things that I wanted to explain to my dad were simple and geometric, using only basic techniques of 3D design. This technology was a revelation!” says Yang. “After printing a few of my models through 3D printing vendors, such as Shapeways and Materialise, and giving them to my dad, I didn’t even have to do any explaining.”
It was no fleeting interest or hobby for sure, and in 2013, Polymer Braille Inc. invited Kevin Yang to use 3D design and printing to create a complicated multidimensional concept that would help to explain to blind people the mechanical mechanisms of a braille display. This 3D printed display was very inspiring to his father.
“My dad and I put 3D printing on a pedestal, as if it were the holy grail for clear communication,” says Yang.
Kevin and his father both agreed they had the tools together to help visually impaired students, and Yang, after four years of attendance at the National Federation of the Blind Convention, was a presenter regarding the work he had done in the classroom with 3D printing. With the help of the Diagram Center, support from employees at Pearson, and the Foundation for Blind Children, Kevin founded LibraryLyna.
LibraryLyna is working to offer a comprehensive package that gives support to the teachers and students, allowing the teachers to contact LibraryLyna with a specific request for what 3D printed tools they need for lessons, and then LibraryLyna goes to work on getting them what they need, most often through curating pre-existing art.
“We find useful models from websites like Thingiverse, and host them on our website, which offers a screen-reader, which is software that blind individuals use to navigate electronic devices,” Yang told 3DPrint.com.“LibraryLyna is taking the initiative to move 3D printing into the hands of those who really need it.”
LibraryLyna is working to make sure that classrooms for visually impaired students are thriving, and that teachers never have to worry about finding resources within the inventory of STEM-based 3D printed materials that LibraryLyna will provide them.
“If pictures are worth a thousand words, 3D models should be worth a million word s– heck, even a billion,” says Keven Yang.