Researchers Create Edible Sweet To Make Chemistry Accessible For Blind College students

Researchers are testing a new way to make science, especially chemistry, accessible to blind students. This method creates edible and inedible rubbery versions of models of molecules that students can feel with their tongues.

Many scientific books contain detailed and impressive pictures of finished molecular structures. However, visually impaired students miss out on all of the intricate details that these images offer.

Inspired by his 13-year-old son who lost an eye to retinoblastoma, a cancer that begins in the retina, Bryan Shaw, lead author of the study, began a new study and experiment that would enable blind students to tactile molecules Sensations in the mouth. For this experiment, the researchers created two versions of bite-sized 3D models – an edible version made from “gummy bear” gelatin and an inedible version made from non-toxic resin. A string is attached to the non-edible version, which the children hold with their fingers while they feel the structure with their tongue. They then asked 281 college students and 31 elementary school children to use their tongues to identify these molecular models.

Fig. 1 “Small” and “smaller” molecular models: highly portable and can be coded with taste. (A) Smaller inedible 3D printed models of calmodulin (CaM) and carbonic anhydrase II (CA II) are comparable in size to a grain of popcorn or rice. Series of protein models produced and tested in this study from (B) biocompatible resin (top: small size; bottom: smaller size) or (C) gelatin (taste-coded or uncoded). (D) Small, inedible model with a safety line that is threaded through the integrated eyelet. (E to G) Smaller inedible models can be flavored coded and shipped in bulk. (E) Shrink-wrapped array on a standard index card and (F and G) packed in standard candy containers (shown for demonstration purposes). Photo credit: Jordan C. Koone, Baylor University; Bryan F. Shaw, Baylor University; and Elizabeth Shaw.

According to the results, the participants were able to identify the molecules with an accuracy of 85.59%! It was also found that 41% of participants could remember the structure if at some point felt it in their mouths instead of just seeing and feeling it with their hands. How is the tongue so effective in identifying these molecular structures, you might ask? This is because the tongue is made up of many packed muscle tissues that move easily between small areas, allowing the person to examine the intricacies of the molecule. When the tongue perceives the composition, it sends a signal to the brain to create a visible image.

The typical technique for introducing molecules to blind students is to use very large hand models, which can be the size of a baseball bat. It’s not always convenient to carry around and carry them around. Many institutions may not even be able to afford them.

Even if this was a successful experiment, it may take some time before we see these “candy molecules” on the market. But one thing these candies did is lower the barrier to entry by encouraging visually impaired teenagers not to be afraid of science and to confidently explore STEM opportunities.

The following source links have amazing details about the study if you want to read on. You can also read the full article recently published in Science Advances.

Source: Nerdist, My Droll

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