Research-Experience Events Translated into American Sign Language for Student Attendee and Others
The NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) on Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE), which is headquartered at Princeton University, conducts a vibrant Summer Program known as Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). In 2012 nearly all open REU events were simultaneously translated into American Sign Language (ASL) because this was the primary language for one of the students (see accompanying figure).
This translation demonstrated an ability to expand the reach of ERC educational events, which are conducted for both students and teachers, to persons who depend on ASL for learning or teaching. Presentations and workshops, including the ASL translations, were videotaped and are available upon request to MIRTHE.
MIRTHE's Summer REU program immerses student participants in a range of educational activities, such as working closely with faculty and their research groups, conducting original research, experiencing first-hand approaches to research and development in graduate and post-graduate contexts, learning how inter-disciplinary and cross-institutional research collaborations are carried out, and understanding the full value of collaborative research. However, through the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program, teacher participants are also exposed to virtually all aspects of MIRTHE undertakings, thereby enriching their curricula for high-school level courses in chemistry, physics, technology, and related subjects. The REU and RET programs culminate in an annual all-hands MIRTHE Summer Workshop.
Using ASL in the REU program to assist one student is admirable. More far-reaching is the fact that preserving ASL translations of MIRTHE Summer Program events opens doors to broader dissemination of the rich and rewarding outcomes by enabling their use to other students and teachers who depend on ASL as their learning or teaching tool.