‘We can do it!’ Team of blind students battling in robotics competition

Posted at 5:46 PM, Mar 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-24 17:47:08-04

What do you do when you’re a student and you want to compete in robotics competitions — and you’re blind? Well, you go to the dark side, of course.

Dark Side is the name of a robotics team in Iowa made up mostly of blind students. It’s taking part in a regional competition this weekend in Cedar Falls against dozens of other teams from the US, China and Brazil.

One of the team members said he asked teachers if they could form a team because they had something to prove.

“We can do it and we can pass it down to other visually-impaired students. That’s our goal,” Danny Grimes told CNN affiliate KCRG.

The Dark Side robot is steered by one of two students with sight on the team.

Building with Braille

There’s eight students on the team: three blind students, three with only very limited vision and two students who can see. The Dark Side operates just like any other robotics team with just one exception. The components they use to build the robots have Braille labels. (The touch reading system for the blind appears in the team’s slogan too: “May the Braille be with you.”)

The two team members who can see handle the steering of the robots during competitions.

Sara Larkin, a teacher at the Iowa Braille and Sightsaving School, said what the team is doing is pretty awesome.

“They’ve already got so much out of it. It’s just amazing,” Larking said. “Most of them had never used a power tool, a screw driver or a hammer before.”