American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections
       Special Issue: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)       PROGRAMS

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Building and Bonding

by Chris Matthews

From the Editor: Chris Matthews is a high school student from Cedarburg, Wisconsin. In this article he writes about his participation in the EQ program sponsored by the National Center for Blind Youth in Science project.

Chris Matthews works on building a structure during STEM EQMy first impression of the EQ program was one of anticipation. I had attended summer camps since the age of six, so being away from home was not a new experience for me. However, when I learned through friends about the NFB's opportunity, I was excited to attend one of the STEM programs myself.

The program started out like any other, with introductions and a team activity. Each team was given marshmallows, spaghetti strands, and a few other materials. We were instructed to build the tallest possible structure. Having a limited time to work, my team bonded immediately. We used each other's ideas to form a solid pyramid, and it was the winning structure. This was the start of a really special bond we shared throughout the week of working together, one I will never forget. Even now, months later, we still keep in touch, through a bond that started at EQ.

Throughout the week engineering remained at the center of our activities. However, it was not the only focus of the program, or at least it is not all I took from the experience. From community outings to watching movies, from getting together and playing Uno and Truth or Dare, we got to know each other well. It came in handy as the week progressed. Teams bonded, and I think we all felt close to each other. It made the days of building and designing our own boats and water filtration systems easier, knowing each other's capabilities.

Teamwork was an essential part of EQ, forming the baseline the program followed. Over the course of the week, we learned to work together, using a multitude of techniques and tools introduced by our instructors and mentors. The staff did an excellent job of making us feel welcome and comfortable. Then they pushed us a bit out of that comfort zone to accomplish our project goals. Each team worked hard throughout the week to achieve those goals, cooperating with other teams when resources and time became restricted.

From building a boat and water filtration system to learning to draw design plans and sketches, NFB EQ 2015 was a spectacular experience. I learned a lot about what is possible, what is realistic, and what is attainable. I made friends, and I continued to build a sense of confidence in myself. I think that experience was shared by each one of us, staying with us long after we boarded our planes and trains for home.

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