Measurements the start to STEM pathways for the blind

Brailled calipersScience, technology, engineering and mathematics or the stem subjects all begin with the concept of measuring. For those who are blind, measurement is inherently difficult because it requires vision. Recently two PhD candidates at MIT developed a simple nonelectronic device for measuring called the squirrel device. It is basically a caliper that has braille markup, and can introduce students who are blind to measuring objects.


Electronic refresh will braille displays often costs over $2500 to $5000. And they do not have any means of measuring items for students. They are amused mainly as alternative displays – rather than a visual monitor, the textual information is displayed in braille using mechanical pins. Below you can see a picture of one.

braille display example

It is said that most blind students drop out of math and science after eighth grade because the content becomes unavailable in the laboratories become inaccessible. The obstacles demotivate blind individuals from learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In a previous article, we discussed a chemistry probe that can be used help students learn to measure different things in a chemistry lab. But basic mathematics is relevant to these fields of study, and so an understanding of geometric principles and a knowledge of how to measure physical objects is a basic requirement for blind individuals. So this new device really is foundational.


Because the PhD candidates understood that electronic devices are prone to failure and are also prohibitively expensive they chose a mechanical solution when designing the calipers.  They also chose this route to keep the cost down.  They sell on National Braille Press for $18.00.


Their efforts were supported by the ideas global challenge which is an annual competition run by the Priscilla King gray public service center. The center support force them to create a business plan, prototypes, posters and to receive feedback from judges. That help them to redefine their objectives in designing the calipers.

After the success of their device Squirrel Devices they also designed a tactile protractor. So be on the lookout for both devices.

Referenced Articles

MIT News Article



More amazing technology produced at MIT which may help people with disabilities


Squirrel Devices webpage: