Luti's Learning Board

Westwood Elementary School


Oftentimes, we take our senses for granted. We never think about what life would be like if we couldn’t see, speak, or hear. But for Luti, a Kindergartner at Westwood Elementary School, that has been her reality for her entire life.

Luti has to contend with both blindness and the inability to communicate verbally, creating a rift between herself and her peers and teachers. This is the problem that EAST students at Westwood Elementary School took on in a project that won the Project Competition at EASTCon22.

“One of Luti’s aides noticed that whenever Luti approaches someone, she always reaches for their lanyard,” Enrique said. “This was a great clue into solving the problem of Luti not being able to identify the person that is working with her.”

After studying Luti’s behaviors and how she attempts to identify and interact with her teachers and aides, the EAST students decided the best course of action was to use their 3D printing abilities to create unique patterns for each person who works with Luti.

“My team and I quickly realized that we needed to design and print a shape with a unique texture that she could feel that represents the person in front of her,” Lilly said. “We wanted Luti to be able to identify the person independently just like her peers.”

The team designed symbols that corresponded to each of Luti’s teachers in Canva, and imported that design into a 3D printer so each teacher could wear the unique symbol.

“We 3D printed the designs using PLA filaments using the slicing software “Flash Print” on our Flashforge Finder machines,” Enrique said. “We printed the tiles standing up on a supportive raft to help get a cleaner print.

The EAST students worked closely with Frances Ward, Luti’s speech teacher, during the project and she is optimistic on how effective the end result will be.

“I think this will be really useful,” Ward said. “Associating a person with a symbol is a pre-literacy skill that she needs before she starts learning how to read.”

On top of creating unique symbols to help Luti identify the people who are working with her, EAST students at Westwood Elementary are also designing a communication board which will allow Luti to respond to questions using the symbols.

“After meeting with Luti’s speech teacher, we decided that we needed to expand the project,” Lilly said. “We used the same symbols and added the first letter of each teacher’s name in braille, so this will be Luti’s first step in learning how to read braille.”