Out-of-Door Students' Project for Students with Physical and Intellectual Impairments Earns Top Honors


For The Out-of-Door Academy’s first trip to the Technology Student Association (TSA) State Competition, sophomores Kaylen Rivers and Reece Whatmore created an interactive, tactile, assistive technology storybook for students with physical and intellectual impairment. Their second-place finish in the category advances them to the National Competition in June.

Kaylen and Reece began working on their storybook more than six months before the conference. Criteria for the category included a book for children with physical and/or intellectual impairment on a scientific concept or idea. They decided on the ‘cell’ as their topic, and began researching the best way to present complicated information in a conceptually and physically accessible manner.

In adherence with the competition guidelines, the students created everything in their book themselves. From the storyline, illustrations, and layout, to laminating and binding the pages—every part of the book is completely original. Every spread of their book, “A Trip to Cell City,” features original illustrations and the text of the story. Each left-facing page has a removable felt cut-out representing the part of the cell being discussed to stimulate and encourage tactile response. All text is translated into Braille for sight-impaired children and every right-facing page has a button that, when pressed, plays an audio recording of Kaylen reading the page’s text.

To make the science conceptually accessible, the students wrote their story within the framework of the cell being a cityscape. Each part of the cell represents a different and essential part of a city that is needed to keep everything running smoothly. As readers “tour” the city, they learn about the purpose of each area, and how they all work together.

In preparation for the competition, Reece and Kaylen visited Oak Park School in Sarasota to share their book with classes in the Developmental Assistive Technology wing. Students in the program receive augmentative and assistive technology for communication in order to access their curriculum. The children provided valuable feedback that the ODA students used to improve the final product.

Kaylen and Reece will travel to Washington D.C. this summer with Science teacher and mentor Theresa Beeman for the National Competition. Congratulations to these ambitious students on an outstanding project that utilized local resources to make an impact and improve their product.

Out-of-Door Academy

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