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Can someone tell me how it is week 7 of the iSTEP internship already? Time flies when you are working on things you like! It sounds pretty silly and cliche but for all the team members, the work that they’re doing during the course of this internship are things they love doing. The amazing part of this internship is that TechBridgeWorld gives you the opportunity of doing what you love in a new context and environment. You also get to see immediate responses to your work from the community you are working with. I’m definitely going to miss this when I move on to a less glamorous designer job that mostly involves me sitting at a computer and working with Adobe Illustrator (that also reminds me that this is the longest I’ve been away from the Creative Suite in a long time. Maker holiday. Researcher, full swing).

While the team was able to immerse itself into the tasks and work for the summer, we didn’t give the reader a lot of context to our work.

Mathru Education Trust runs the Mathru School for the Blind, the primary location of the iSTEP team work for the summer and Mathru Center for the Differently Abled. The Needs Assessment team works between these two institutions. Our work for the summer includes

1. Understanding and assessing the needs of the two different institutions through observations and interviews with staff and students.

2.User testing new features on the Braille Writing Tutor (BWT) that Madeleine and Poornima have been working (Math and Hindi modes and new concept that allows the BWT to connect to a smart phone. This would make the BWT mobile). To provide more clarification on the last BWT project- the existing prototype of the BWT connects to the computer. Students and teachers interact with the BWT and the computer is able to process the button clicks and provide audio feedback on whether the answer typed in is correct. There are two BWTs in use at Mathru from previous iSTEP internships. Mathru has dedicated a room to the BWTs as of now. With the smartphone connection Mathru will no longer have to isolate the BWT experience to the student. Teachers can use it in the classroom as and when students needs more practice learning to write braille.

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Vivek wanted me to test a feature for him and I somehow managed to break it a little bit. Best user tested ever huh?

3. User testing the new version of the braille writing tutor called the Stand Alone Braille Tutor (SABT) with staff and students at Mathru School for the Blind (the SABT). This version works on batteries and address the issue of power outages that cause issues with the BWT connected to a computer. It is also mobile and addresses a few of the issues that BWT + smartphone addresses. Vivek is working on adding a Math, Hindi and Kannada mode to the existing set of features available on the device.

4. Conducting a thorough literature review of existing technologies in the education realm for students with multiple disabilities. This helps us understand technologies that exist around the world for students with multiple disabilities.

5. Documenting and summarizing our findings from our on field research so that future iSTEP teams can benefit from the data and recommendations that we have made. The summaries also help TechBridgeWorld and the Technology Development team (the other half the iSTEP team for the summer) address pressing issues.

6. We also manage marketing for the iSTEP team. Ensure that our lovely readers know what we’ve been up to. Try and post pictures of our work and adventures when the internet connection allows us to and create and share videos of our iSTEP experience (work and fun related). [<- VIDEO ALERT! 🙂 ]

Since we’re more than half the way through the internship we have been able to cross a few of these off the list. Some of the other tasks relating to research, the work persists. We are constantly testing new versions of the software and observing classes. Like all design processes the work we’re doing with Mathru is iterative. There is never a straight line from the observation, isolation of the problem and producing a solution. We have to go back to our partner and verify that everything from the concept to the tiny details of the audio feedback they receive make is helpful for them.

Total midweek madness. I would like to settle down with a book today. Maybe I will read after I am done with work. If you’re wondering who else is on the Needs Assessment team it is Aditya, Avia and Aveed.

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