Local elementary students create Braille Lego bricks for the visually impaired

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Eight students from a local charter school spent the first half of their school year developing and creating Braille Lego Kits as part of the First Lego League Challenge

The group of students are part of the Wolf Pup Lego League team (team 38949) at Success Academy Primary School (SAPS), a charter school authorized by Education One at Trine University.

One part of the challenge was to create an "Innovation Project" which asked students how they can share a common hobby and grow a community around that hobby through art and technology. The challenge was to create projects to be presented in front of judges that focus on design-thinking, community outreach, and solving challenges with science, technology, engineering, and math.

The group of students, which includes seven fifth graders and one fourth grader, began brainstorming process and started to think of who would be excluded from playing with the Lego kits they made.

"One of the students recognized her mother would be unable to build Legos due to her being visually impaired," a Trine spokesperson said.

"The students started researching what it meant to be visually impaired, and how it would impact playing with Legos. The students learned that braille Legos exist for reading and math with braille lettering on top of the bricks, but they cannot stack on top of each other. The students decided to create braille Lego kits that are stackable."

The students had to study braille and learn bits and pieces of the language to create the seven or eight different models they came up with before selecting their Lego design.

According to the school, the students used paper strips, adhesive dots, a braille label machine and, a 3D modeling program, to create their prototype.

"The students tested out their models by utilizing blindfolds and goggles with lotion to get the perspective of a person who is visually impaired," school officials said. "The students also surveyed the public via Facebook to gain insight on what type of kits to make. Additionally, they created a business plan including time, materials and cost needed to make the Legos."

According to the school, once the group was satisfied with their model, the team member's mom came in and tested the Legos with her glasses, without her glasses, and with different lighting, and she was able to successfully put together the Legos.

"I am honored to have watched the students go through the process of creating the Legos," Maker Manager at SAPS Marilyn Nash said. "The students had many 'aha' moments in the design process. The students showed incredible teamwork through perseverance and resilience. It was amazing to see the students' hesitations turn into confidence."

At the first competition this past season, the Lego League Team received the first place Innovation Award for their braille Lego kits. The final kits, available for free, include two base plates and at least 25 Legos.

"The most valuable part of the process was watching the team in tears talking about how to ensure they are being inclusive in all they do." Nash said.

Share this article: