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An Artificial Intelligence Tool for Accessible Science Education

Abstract: One of the most important issues in accessible science education is creating a laboratory workspace accessible to blind students or students with visual impairments (VI). Although these students are often provided access to the science lectures, they are usually denied full participation in hands-on laboratory work. Current solutions to this problem focus on providing special accommodations such as asking sighted lab partners to complete the hands-on work. Although the accessibility of laboratory devices in modern science education has been improved in recent years, students with VI often remain passive learners. In this work, we developed a new artificial intelligence tool, the MSU Denver Virtual Lab Assistant (VLA), using Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), Alexa smart speaker, and a microcontroller (Raspberry Pi). The VLA can be used as a virtual assistant in the lab in combination with other access technologies and devices. The VLA allows students with VI to perform the hands-on laboratory work by themselves simply using voice control. The VLA can be accessed through any smartphone or Amazon Echo device to assist general science lab procedures. The VLA is designed to be applicable to different science laboratory work. It is also compatible with other common accessible electronic devices such as the Talking LabQuest (TLQ). We believe that the VLA can promote the inclusion of learners with VI and be beneficial to general accessible science education work


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