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UNF STEP Lab provides space for hands-on learning across disciplines

Students studying special education in the University of North Florida’s College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) are learning to make technology more accessible to students with disabilities.

Dr. Nicholas Eastham, UNF STEP Lab supervisor and faculty administrator, came up with a one-of-a-kind lesson plan and demonstration for Rebekah Wallis, adjunct COEHS faculty member, and her students studying to be special education educators. The class constructed accessible “breadboards” that can be made and used by people of various age levels and abilities with materials found around the house.

Wallis’ students utilized the COEHS’s Solve Tinker Explore and Play (STEP) Lab to create the accessible breadboards so that learners with varying motor skills and/or visual impairments can participate in science lessons involving circuits. The students got creative and replaced the usual inaccessible breadboard components with boba straws, crayons, copper tape, wire, cardboard, and hot glue.

“Having the STEP Lab available for use on campus is an amazing resource for our students to take their learning to the next level as they prepare to enter the classroom as educators,” Wallis commented.

After participating in the activity, the future educators looked forward to applying the strategies they learned for the implementation of Universal Design principles and hands-on learning while using various assistive and instructional technology methods in their future careers with their own students. They also said that they hoped to have more upcoming activities in the space.

“The ultimate goal of the STEP Lab is to make STEM learning relevant, accessible and fun for everyone, across all grade levels” said Eastham.

The STEP Lab is stocked with iPads, laptops, drones, 3D printers, green screens, robotic vehicles, LEGO kits, life-size blocks, and a variety of makerspace materials. Regional PK-12 students and teachers, University faculty and students, and community partners can utilize the lab to learn and gain hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering and math. Learn more about the innovative and unique UNF STEP Lab via the website