The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), in partnership with scholars from Utah State University and educators from the Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM), has developed the Spatial Ability and Blind Engineering Research (SABER) project to assess and improve the spatial ability of blind teens in order to broaden their participation in STEM fields. The goals of the project include: 1. Develop and investigate the reliability of a tactile instrument to test blind and low vision youths’ spatial ability levels. 2. Contribute to the knowledge base of effective practices regarding informal STEM education for the blind, particularly relating to the development of spatial reasoning abilities. 3. Educate families, blind youth, and museum personnel about the techniques, tools, and instructional practices rooted in problem solving to effectively develop spatial ability skills in blind youth in informal STEM-learning settings. 4. Incorporate promising techniques, tools, and instructional practices from the developed interventions into ongoing programming for both blind and sighted learners. Reliability calculations on the Tactile Mental Cutting Test have been developed at an introductory stage. This test was a major product of the original proposal to NSF. In the last year of the project, participant numbers are seen increasing for this instrument and final reliability calculations will be conducted in the final year of the project. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 NFB Engineering Quotient (EQ) program was conducted virtually online from July 5 through July 30, 2021 with 35 participants. In addition to exploring the extent to which the 2021 EQ program helped to address the overall goals of the NFB SABER project, the research and evaluation team collaborated to collect, analyze, and report findings on how blind learners build vocabulary, meaning, and understanding of spatial thinking concepts and skills in a synchronistic digital environment.
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