3d printers

Coal Ridge student uses 3D printers to fix school braille signs

Coal Ridge High School Conner Harte works with a 3D printer on April 14.
Ray K. Erku / Independent Post

Olive Byman, a freshman at Coal Ridge High School, noticed something was wrong when she started spotting the school’s Braille signage.

“I could smell the braille outside the doors,” Byman said. “And I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s not right.'”

Byman suffered a stroke when he was 3 years old and subsequent MRIs detected a brain tumor that needed to be removed. The tumor crushed her left optic nerve, rendering her blind.

To this day, Byman has limited vision in her right eye, she said.

Before entering his freshman year of high school, Byman had to scout schools to make sure Braille systems were up to snuff.

When Byman began scouting Coal Ridge High School, she noticed various inaccuracies with her braille system. Although certified by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the braille signs were misspelled and the punctuation was out of place.

“I visited the school for so long before coming here, so I kind of know all of these places here,” Byman said. “But it’s convenient for the visually impaired.”

Byman reported this to the administration, who quickly resolved the issue.

Then Coal Ridge senior Conner Harte stepped in.

Using three-dimensional printers available in Coal Ridge instructor Jeremy Heiser’s technology innovation classroom, Harte has spent the past school year making new braille signs for the school.

Tinkering with an arsenal of 3D printers in essentially his own reserved workstation in a corner of Heiser’s classroom on April 14, Harte said he started the 2021-22 school year with no knowledge of this new technology. .

A 3D printer at work at Coal Ridge High School on April 14.
Ray K. Erku / Independent Post

“I started from scratch using a program called SketchUp,” he said. “It’s just a basic 3D design program, and I figured out how to design these plates from scratch.”

Saving the Garfield School District Re-2 the high costs of replacing signs, Harte has personally acclimated to 3D technologies and is printing signs to hang throughout the school.

“I like the idea of ​​creating something out of nothing,” Harte said.

One of the most crucial moments of this month-long project came when Harte found a way to speed up the process. Heiser began manually placing dots on signage. That is, until Harte found open-source software that converts text directly to Braille.

Unsurprisingly, Harte just accepted an offer from Colorado State University to study mechanical engineering.

“Being able to support (the visually impaired) and being able to make their student lives a little easier is a really good thing,” Harte said.

Heiser said Coal Ridge started its 3D printing program just this school year. Instead of spending large sums on printers that work at the touch of a button, the school purchased printers that challenge students to design, troubleshoot, and generally develop skills essential to their future success.

“You have to explore how to get there,” Heiser said. “The engineering design process is in play and on the minds of every child every day. There’s no better, more practical way to do it.

Heiser said Harte was also writing the 3D printing system for incoming students to use as a framework for future projects.

“I don’t want to know everything he knows,” Heiser said of Harte. “But I want the next kid to be able to be successful because things are going to break, things are going to fall off the walls.”

Coal Ridge High School, Olive Byman, left, and senior Conner Harte stand next to 3-D printers on April 14.
Ray K. Erku / Independent Post

Once Harte completes this volunteer project, he estimates to print over 100 panels.

When Byman graduated, she said she wanted to get into cooking school and one day open her own cafe. In the meantime, she can’t help but appreciate Heiser and Harte’s efforts to make school a better place to learn.

“I’m excited to see the new plaques,” she said. “They’re coming and going around the school soon, so that’s exciting.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or [email protected].