3D Educational Material

Web application for the creation of accessible learning materials

Disability concerned: Visual disability

Topics: Training, Leisure

Learning is a process guided by eyesight. Concrete visualization allows one to picture things that are difficult to convey verbally. Illustrations and pictures in textbooks help to better understand facts. While children and young people without visual impairments can hardly escape the flood of images that convey representations of things that are distant and difficult to understand, visually impaired, deaf-blind and blind learners lack accessible teaching materials.
A preliminary project has developed an approach to simplify the creation of accessible learning materials through 3D printing. Graphics from existing educational material are transformed by image processing into an edge representation that can be converted into a 3D printable file. The use of the technology should thus be made easier and more accessible to teachers without technical expertise. This functionality was only accessible via a command line application. This project is based on these results, with the objective of developing a modern web application. This application should offer a modern and user-friendly interface that helps in the creation of print files.
The user interface of the application was designed in collaboration with teachers and improved in an iterative way. The implementation was made with current web technologies (Django, Angular, Material Design) and is available on a web server. It is thus possible to load an image into the application, configure the image processing algorithm with visual feedback and download the printable file. In addition, other 3D prints were created and tested in an exploratory manner. It was found that the user interface was easy to use and that the prints created were well usable.

This project allowed us to deepen the existing expertise in semi-automated 3D print creation. This includes automated image processing with OpenCV and Python as well as Blender automation. The integration of existing functions into a web application, in particular, was a technical challenge that provided valuable technical expertise.
The work with teachers and students was a successful interdisciplinary collaboration. It was motivating to contribute to the accessibility of educational material for visually impaired students. The close involvement of the users in the process provided a lasting motivation for the project team.
The support of the Innovation Booster provided valuable impulses for the development of the project and the preparation of an innovation project application.

The project laid the technical and content foundations for an innovation project application. The results of this project will be integrated into a web-based platform for the exchange of educational material for people with visual impairments. In addition to the functions developed in the project, other functions are to be integrated into this platform, such as searching a library of educational materials and the possibility of ordering the printing of educational materials from specialised companies. The innovation project has the potential to sustainably improve the use of teaching materials in the field of visual impairment didactics in Switzerland while reducing costs. The proposal is due to be submitted in December 2022.

The illustration shows a screenshot of the web platform developed to assist in the configuration of 3D prints.

Contact info

OST

Frieder Loch

Friederl.loch@ost.ch

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