RIT Receives Grant for Computing Outreach to Visually Impaired

National Science Foundation Grant will be used to conduct workshops for students, teachers

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Rochester Institute of Technology’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences has received a $475,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue its outreach to underrepresented groups within computing.

Software engineering professors Stephanie Ludi and Tom Reichlmayr were awarded the funds to continue and expand their ImagineIT program, which strives to increase participation in computing among students with visual impairments through better class material preparation, support and teacher development.

“The unemployment rate for the blind in this country is 70 percent,” says Ludi. “We want to open more doors for the visually impaired and get them thinking about college.”

Fifteen 7-12th grade students from around the country traveled to RIT in the summer of 2007 for the inaugural workshop, where they worked together on projects that included programming robots and assembling computers.

“It was really rewarding to see how excited they got,” says Reichlmayr. “These students are a very small minority in their schools and they have limited opportunities to collaborate with other students who are just like them.”

This new grant money will help Ludi and Reichlmayr expand the program. Three workshops will be held at RIT over the next three years. But this time, ImagineIT is also hitting the road. Workshops will be held in the San Diego area during two of the next three summers.

The improved program will include follow-up activities for students and more training for teachers.