2017 National Federation of the Blind Youth Slam
By: Seth Lamkin
“In the classroom people don’t always ask us to get involved…”
“My science teacher didn’t want me to do anything…”
“People say, ‘it’s for your own good, it’s better if you don’t have to do it…'”
Far too often blind youth are not provided with the same opportunities as their sighted peers to explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Students are told that without the ability to see, there is no way to explore the cosmos through an astronomy lesson, perform a chemistry experiment in a laboratory, or engineer a solution to a design problem. Instead, while their sighted classmates actively participate in these lessons, blind students are set aside, given menial tasks or told to sit quietly, missing out on potentially uncovering a hidden talent or future career aspiration. Teachers, parents, and the students themselves do not know that nonvisually accessible solutions have already been created by blind scientists and engineers who have mastered the field.
This is where the National Federation of the Blind comes in. We know that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.
And so we created the NFB Youth Slam, a groundbreaking effort to immerse blind high school students in hands-on experimentation and exploration of a host of STEM subjects. Led by experts from agencies such as NASA, from universities across the country, and from innovative technology firms interested in engaging the next generation of top talent, the program’s curriculum showcased how simple adjustments can enable blind people to fully participate in STEM, and do some amazing things in the process.
We launched rockets. We launched a weather balloon. We dissected sharks, programmed robots, investigated mock crime scenes, and built a hovercraft. One year, we drove a dune buggy, as the NFB Youth Slam became the testing ground for the NFB Blind Driver Challenge.
This year, on the tenth anniversary of the inaugural NFB Youth Slam, we’ve done it again. From July 23-29, we’ll be at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, with a whole new set of tracks, short sessions, recreation activities, and some of the brightest minds in STEM. This year, why not try your hand at video game design or explore how art intersects with STEM to form STEAM. Don’t put it off too long—applications close May 7. Apply today!
“What I liked most about Youth Slam was all the people that I met and being able to see how much I really can do in my life.”
“I learned a little about shark anatomy, but the main thing was that I gained confidence. Before I wasn't sure how I would do the labs in my upcoming biology class, but now I think I know exactly what I need to succeed.”
“It showed me that the things that people have always told me I couldn’t do, I CAN DO.”