Students show off skills at Tech Olympics

Students from around the state demonstrated their knowledge and expertise with assistive devices at the 8th Technology Olympics, recently held at the South Carolina Commission for the Blind (SCCB) in Columbia.

“Assistive technology helps ensure students who are blind or visually impaired have access to everything their sighted peers have,” says Micko Hughes, Technology Olympics Coordinator at the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind. “This is an opportunity for them to showcase those skills.”

More than 50 students competed in one of three events. In the tablet event, they demonstrated how well they can use an iPad or laptop, including accessibility settings, accessories, and various apps. In note taking, they proofread, analyzed or edited text, and/or compose a document. In magnification, they utilized portable magnification devices to locate information from illustrations or print sources, quickly find keywords in text passages, and record information in print or braille format.

“It’s exciting to see them use their skills and assistive technology in real world situations,” says Kisa Grate, Director of Training and Employment at SCCB.

As students demonstrated their capabilities in using adaptive equipment and technology, they were evaluated based on their individual skill level and received either a bronze, silver or gold medal.

“It’s a big accomplishment and boost to their self-esteem,” says Grate. “The students are so proud and excited when they receive their awards.”

“Each year we see growth in their skill set,” adds Hughes. “Plus, I love the camaraderie I see here. The students really support each other.”

In between events, students had the opportunity to bowl, play boardgames and participate in an interactive story time. Representatives from Quintex Low Vision were on hand to demonstrate optical character recognition devices that can be used to read signs, books, or the labels on items in stores. Additionally, two employees from Apple—part of the Apple Champions program—taught students how to use tools on an iPad or laptop to create and edit music.

The Technology Olympics is open and free of charge to students who are blind or have low vision in grades K-12. It is sponsored by the SC Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, SC Commission for the Blind, SC Department of Education, SC School for the Deaf and the Blind Division of Statewide Outreach Services, and the University of South Carolina Upstate.