Tactile Universe Video

Full video transcript:

Dr. Coleman Krawczyk
Tactile universe is a public engagement project here at the ICG to bring the astronomy research that we do here to the blind and visually impaired community.

Dr. Coleman Krawczyk cont.
So we use various 3D printed and tactile models to help bring those concepts across. So the idea came from my colleague, Nick Bonne who’s a blind astronomer here at the ICG and he wanted to come up with a way to bring astronomy to this underserved audience within the community.

Dr. Nic Bonne
So originally the idea came about because I’m actually a visually impaired astronomer myself. I remember how difficult it was at times getting into astronomy as a kid, we wanted to try and help other children who might have wanted to get into astronomy and find that a little bit easier than they would.

Dr. Nic Bonne cont.
So we use a 3D printer at the moment to make the models. We start off with a bit of software where we have any black and white image, we put that through the software and it makes that 3D model. We then send that model to a 3D printer and the 3D printer prints it. And we’ve just started playing around with other ways of making those models we’re using a wood milling machine that makes better quality versions of those models and then we’re going to make liquid resin moulds so that we can make a lot more models.

Dr. Coleman Krawczyk
What we’ve done is we’ve take a large number of galaxies and different types so we take some spiral galaxies we take some elliptical galaxies and merging galaxies and we take these and we use them to tell a story of how galaxies evolve and how they change over time. So how the stars start off as young blue hot stars within the galaxy and eventually turn into these older, redder, cooler stars and we can tell that by showing the difference between what the galaxy feels in blue light verses what it feels like in red light.

Dr. Nic Bonne
The way the models work is they take the light of the images and they turn that into a third dimension, so where we have a really bright part of an image that’ll be raised above the base of the model where we have a really dim part of the image that’ll sit close to the base of the model. So when they run their hands over the model they basically feel how the light changes they can feel the shape of the galaxy.

Dr. Coleman Krawczyk
The reaction’s been very positive so we’ve had a lot of really good feedback and several children have actually told us how, because of this project decided that they can actually study and look into astronomy for the first time something they wouldn’t have looked into otherwise.

Dr. Nic Bonne
The Nucleus Award is a project grant from the STFC we’re hoping to us the money from that first to hire our technical lead Coleman Krawczyk so that he can help us produce the models, maintain our website. We also want to take the project national so at the moment we’re very much working with vision impaired students in our local area. What we’re going to do is do training sessions around the country make sure any outreach officers, science communicators, teachers who want to use the resources can have a chance to work with us and learn how everything can be used in their classrooms. We’re also going to make a number of kits that we can basically send out to schools so that they’ll have those resources to use. And, we’re also going to visit really remote parts of the UK. So, Scottish Highlands, Wales and Cornwall. So places where outreach officers from universities wouldn’t normally go because they’re a little too far away.

Dr. Coleman Krawczyk
Additionally, we’re going to be using the funds to make sure all of our models are freely available and open source and all of the software that we use is available and documented. So anyone who has an idea of something similar to do can use our software build their own models and print their own. So we can make it available for anyone to use as they like.

Dr. Nic Bonne
So I think the ultimate aim for the project is just to allow anybody who wants to learn about astronomy to learn about astronomy. So I think sight shouldn’t be a barrier for this. We really want to try and find as many work arounds as we possibly can so that any visually impaired child no matter their level of vision can learn about astronomy, be passionate about astronomy if that’s something that they want to do.

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