‘Seeing’ Science in a Different Light

Our students have ideas to make impact. We created the Be-A-Maker (BeAM) network of “makerspaces” to give their ideas physical form. Students can access a range of equipment, from metalworking and woodworking tools to laser cutters and 3D printers.

What began as a classroom assignment could have lasting impact beyond UNC. Feelin’ DNA is providing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers with 3D models they can incorporate into their classrooms to encourage the visually impaired community to embrace STEM curricula and careers.

Founder Rachael Hamm ’18 (a biology major and chemistry/medical anthropology minor) hatched the idea from an assignment for a genetics class taught by Kelly Hogan, associate professor of biology and assistant dean of instructional innovation. Students were to create something for a hands-on science museum using UNC’s BeAM makerspaces.

“My idea was to make something for visually impaired students that was tactile,” Hamm said. So far, Feelin’ DNA has created a 2D projection of a heart with Braille labeling and 3D models of a bacteriophage and DNA.

The National Science Foundation reports that less than 8 percent of visually impaired students pursue STEM-related careers. Lack of user-friendly materials could be a barrier, said Kevin Currin, a visually-impaired biostatistics graduate student who advises the team on what makes a good model.

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