STEM Project Raises Awareness of Accessibility

Through their involvement in the 2019 First Lego League tournament, Townsville Grammar School students have responded to the challenges of accessibly with the design of a prototype website to rate and review public buildings and spaces.

 For the third consecutive year, Townsville Grammar School has taken out the Overall Regional Champions award in the First Lego League Regional tournament.

Head of Faculty – ICT and e-Learning, Mr Simon Ward, said the School’s three teams once again performed admirably, both in the lead up and during the competition. “We had three teams with 18 students in total competing in the 2019 regional round of the competition,” said Mr Ward. “Our Senior team was awarded the Robot Performance and Robot Design Award, and our Middle School team was awarded the overall Regional Champions Award for their performance in all areas, making Townsville Grammar School the overall winner for the past three consecutive years.

“They all worked incredibly hard in their preparation and we very proud of their efforts, their insights and their learnings through this experience.”

As an international competition, the rules and theme of the event are released in August, and teams begin competing, beginning at a regional level, after three months of preparation.

Teams are judged across four categories -  Robot Performance, Robot Design, Innovation Project, and Core Values, under this year’s theme of “City Shapers”.  In the Innovation Project category, teams were required to identify a problem with a building or a public space in their community.

“One of the students in the team has a good friend who is dependent on a wheelchair,” explained Mr Ward. “She consulted her friend about the problems and challenges she faces on a daily basis, and it was such an eye-opener, that both teams decided to base their Innovation Project on the issue of accessibility in the community.

“The teams consulted with industry professionals and experts and carried out an online survey, receiving feedback from people faced with disability and accessibility challenges, which they used in the design of their project.”

The Middle School team focused on Townsville’s Strand, looking at the accessibility of the local beaches. They discovered that the Council provides mats at certain days and times to facilitate accessibility to the beach and ocean. The team took this a step further, to investigate how they could make the beaches more accessible on a permanent basis, for a range of users.  The Senior School team focused on buildings and facilities in our community, looking at the regulations regarding accessibility for new buildings, as compared to older buildings, which were not constructed to contemporary specifications. 

“This was again another eye opening experience, highlighting the range of accessibility issues that different users encounter.

"The students soon realised that being accessible means much more than just having suitable wheel chair access,” said Mr Ward. 

The team developed a prototype website, enabling users to rate and review buildings and community spaces on their accessibility features, effectively enabling crowd-sourcing of information for public use.

“They discovered that when you search for a building or place on Google Search, you can easily find information on location, opening hours, busy periods, parking, customer reviews (etc), however, it is not as easy to locate information on accessibility. Google does provide some accessibility information, but only when you search for a place using the Google Maps App. This information is not available via a regular Google web search, meaning that finding or providing this information is not always easily or obviously accessible.

“The team is hoping that this project will encourage community places, buildings and businesses to assess and communicate their accessibility features. They would love to pitch this concept to Google, hoping to see this functionality included in regular search results.

“We are immensely proud of our teams for their insight into this significant community issue and we hope this project can lead to gaining traction for easier access to accessibility ratings and reviews of public spaces and buildings.

“This is another great example of STEM in action.”

 

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Mr Timothy Kelly

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