Marlyland Regional Braille Challenge logo 2024 stating: We build or future with braille.

Maryland School for the Blind is Where You Build Your Future With Braille!

Learn about the 2024 Maryland Regional Braille Challenge

Authors: Diane Colburn, Conchita Hernandez, LaShawn Myles, Jackie Otwelll

The 2024 Maryland Regional Braille Challenge was held on Saturday, February 10, 2024 at Maryland School for the Blind. Our theme was “We Build Our Future With Braille” and the best way to build your future with braille is through the use of Lego, Lego Braille Bricks and a “We Build Our Future” Transition Fair!

The Braille Challenge is a program of the Braille Institute and is the only braille competition of its kind in North America for grades 1-12. Top scorers nationwide are invited to the National Braille Challenge held in June in Los Angeles, California. Students at the Braille Challenge competed in the various categories such as: Reading Comprehension, Proofreading, Speed and Accuracy, Spelling and Charts and Graphs.

We also offered a Lego Braille Brick Master Class where students were engaged with the Lego Braille Bricks in a fun manner. We utilized the lessons from the site such as Build a Rectangular Tower and Find Your Letter. We modified Find Your Letter to include the student’s full name since we had time. We likewise had LaShawn Myles, a guest Youth Librarian, join us from the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Print Disabled. She encouraged students to build a maze using the process of Design Thinking using the Lego’s.

First, students had to define what a maze is, then ideate what to build, create a prototype, then finally test and modify their creations. To truly test the efficacy of their mazes, students used several HEXBUG Nano Bugs, robotic creatures that use vibration technology to crawl. However, the final test could not happen until after they met Barnabus. Ms. Myles read part of the book “The Barnabus Project” by The Fan Brothers. Students were taken on an adventure as Barnabus learns he is a “Failed Project” that will be recycled. With a clever action he escapes his imprisoned life. But he is not totally free, until he escapes the hidden underground lab.

After reading the book, students had to imagine their mazes were the underground lab and the Hexbug was Barnabus, who yearned to be free. Did Barnabus make it to freedom? The finale began with students testing each other’s Lego mazes with the Hexbug. Students cheered, gasped, and celebrated as Barnabus (Hexbug) crawled, flipped, and navigated through their creative mazes.

Parents of teenagers had the opportunity to explore Perkins Career and College Readiness Programs in a specialized breakout session. Parents of younger participants got a special preview of the Lego Braille Bricks “Let’s Play” Workshop about how to promote inclusion and play into learning at home as well as how we use it in our classrooms at MSB! Matt Shifrin, CEO of Bricks for the Blind, our Keynote Speaker provided families with text based instruction for a Lego Build. He inspired families with his desire to create text based instructions so Lego builds can be accessible!

In addition, our “Build Your Future” Transition Fair was designed to highlight different Lego + Braille Learning techniques. We also hosted a variety of vendors and resources from around the region who were focused on helping the students and their families explore “What comes next.” Tables included: Johns Hopkins University Department of Neuroscience & Neuroplasticity, Towson University, Maryland ABLE Accounts, NFB-Parents of Blind Children,  Bridges/IMAGE Center Assistance and many, many more!

To make the day extra special students used Lego Braille bricks to spell their name on a baseplate and created their own Lego mini figure! These base plates will be combined with other elements to make a display in the hallway of the Department of Statewide Services at Maryland School for the Blind. All Braille Challenge participants received custom Lego trophies from Brick Engravers!

Legos with students name on them in both braille and print, along with Lego people next to each person's name