Aya Mouallem, PhD candidate, is designing an electronic circuit simulator to allow blind and low-vision engineering students to collaborate with sighted colleagues
Her accessible electronic circuit simulator uses a mix of haptic and digital components, with both tactile and audio feedback.
Aya Mouallem, EE PhD candidate, RAISE Fellow, and Knight-Hennessy Scholar is designing an electronic circuit simulator to allow blind and low-vision engineering students to collaborate with sighted colleagues.
Simulating the design of electronic circuits is a fundamental skill for electrical engineering students. Most simulators have the user drag and drop design components on a computer screen. But this can create barriers for students with blindness and low vision.
Aya Mouallem wants to change that.
Working in the Designing Education Lab, Aya is designing an accessible electronic circuit simulator that uses a mix of haptic and digital components, with both tactile and audio feedback.
“I’m hoping it will be a new way for blind learners to independently simulate their circuits and also collaborate in the lab with others who are sighted,” she said.
Tools need to be accessible to blind students but also usable by a sighted person – so that an instructor can offer feedback on the student’s work, for example, and other students can collaborate.
“3D modeling is a really big problem for blind folks who want to get into mechanical engineering,” said Gene Kim, a junior majoring in symbolic systems, who is blind. He has been working with Aya in the Designing Education Lab and helped with the design criteria for the circuit simulator. He initially wanted to study mechanical engineering but turned to computer science because it was more accessible.
With a tool like this one, “people would be more inclined to study mechanical engineering and electrical engineering,” Kim said. “I think people would be a lot less burned out and stressed from having to come up with creative ways to work around the accessibility challenges.”
Excerpted from “Engineering accessibility” by Margaret Steen, Stanford Report, November 15, 2023.