Discovery Retreat: Exploring STEM with Video (AccessComputing News - January 2014)

David Coco, AccessComputing partner

What do you get when you combine 30 deaf and hard of hearing high school students, a half-dozen challenging STEM topics, and GoPro cameras? A weekend of STEM exploration and creativity!

Twice a year the Educational Resource Center on Deafness (ERCOD) at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas invites deaf and hard of hearing students from all over Texas to come together for a weekend of exploration in collaboration with deaf and hard of hearing professionals. This past November, a group of eleventh and twelfth graders spent the weekend exploring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) topics such as encryption, binary search, sound visualization, and robotics, and then creating a short video explaining their topic.

Austin Andrews and Jeremy Weston, creators of the KnowThat?! ASL video series, introduced the students to the concept of using various constraints to enhance their creativity. Time, equipment, and computer resources were limited for this project but these constraints did not limit the boundaries for their creativity.

The goal for the weekend was to produce a four-minute video explaining their STEM topic that could be understood by the general public without audio or any knowledge of sign language. Bradley Gantt, a deaf professional videographer, guided the students through the fundamentals of developing, shooting, and editing a short video with help from a number of other deaf professionals. Each group of five students was assigned a different STEM topic, and an adult group leader helped the students explore the topic and develop the video.

The STEM topics were new and unfamiliar ground for most of the students but with teamwork and guidance they welcomed the challenges. They learned the basics of encryption, binary searches, and programming robots and developed videos explaining their newfound knowledge. By Sunday morning all the groups had their videos ready to post online and share with the world.

The students packed a lot of learning, hard work, and fun into one weekend. As one student commented: I enjoyed the process of working together as a team; we all had our responsibilities, such as researching, filming, editing and managing the team.

See what a group of teens can accomplish on a weekend when you give them some new toys and a dash of inspiration —check out their videos here.