As a freshman at Texas A&M University, Tyler Wooten became involved in StartUp AggieLand. “StartUp AggieLand is our start up, incubator style learning program where students and alumni can learn how to be an entrepreneur.” One of his team members gave a ToastMasters speech to the President of Disability Services, and Tyler’s immediate reaction was “What can I do to help?” He had recently taken some 3D printing classes at the Engineering Innovation Center (EIC) on campus, and came up with the idea to create a tactile map for visually impaired students to help them better navigate the campus. He met with the President of Disability Services the very next day, made is pitch, and was introduced to Kaitlyn Kellermeyer. Kaitlyn is a blind senior economics major who was working on a project with a similar goal. Her Wind Chimes Project places wind chimes around campus to help visually impaired and blind students orient themselves on campus, especially in some of the more confusing areas. Tyler met with Kaitlyn and explained his idea. “I was trying to explain to her what it would be and she really wasn’t sure what I was talking about, but encouraged me to ‘just do it and we’ll see how it works’. I went home that night and downloaded SOLIDWORKS. I’d never used any CAD program. I ran through some quick tutorials and then I started building the map. I had the map of A & M on my left screen and SOLIDWORKS on my right screen. It took me about 10 hours eyeballing the size of buildings and trying to get it all right.”
“I printed out the map the next day and met with Kaitlyn again. She just freaked out whenever she got her hands on it. She shrieked she was so excited! She was telling me there that seeing the buildings’ shapes really helped her know what’s going on. It helped her build her build a better mental map so she can understand where everything is. I marked her wind chimes on the map as well so that if someone is walking around and they hear a wind chime, they can put their hand on the map and know which wind chime they’re hearing to give them a better sense of orientation with the real world and the map at the same time. Since then, Kaitlyn and I have been working on iterating on the map and making it better as we go. I recently got detailed drawings of A&M and I’ve created a 2ft x 2ft map that will be placed in the Memorial Student Center. Imagine you’re a visually impaired or blind high schooler concerned about going to a big school because it will be hard to get around and get oriented. Just having this map in front of you and knowing how big everything is kind of sets it in proportion, and campus becomes more involving for everyone. The way I designed it, the map can be used by blind students, visually impaired students, and people who can see really high contrast. It’s comprised of black buildings on a white background and other people can see it as well because I’ve put labels on everything.”
As our conversation went on, I asked Tyler what why he chose Mechanical Engineering and what his plans were for the next few years. “I’m going to school for mechanical engineering and I’ve always been really interested in the entrepreneurial side of engineering. If I have an idea, I want to be able to prototype it, create it, and make something without having to pay tons of money to someone else. What I wanted to do was come out of school and work for a big company for 6-10 years and make enough money to pay off my bills, save up a little capital, and launch my own business from there. Now I’m looking at even sooner than that. I feel like I will to be launching a business while I’m still in college. I just filed for a non-profit called the Assistive Mapping Project. We’re going to start getting other schools maps as well. I want to use the non-profit to pay for college while I’m going through this. Also, Kaitlyn’s on our board so we’re going to help pay for her last year of college through some of the grants we get. Eventually, I want to get to where I can pay other college students to help out, like campus ambassadors. Say University of Texas (UT) contacted us and wanted to have a map, a student could put an application out to UT and say they want to be a campus ambassador and they’ll make a map for us. In return, they can get a grant or something at the end for $1000. I haven’t quite ironed everything out yet, but that’s kind of the way we want to do it. It can get someone more CAD experience while also helping the campus be more inclusive. The whole purpose is to keep more people more involved. When we talk about the Aggie Spirit, one of our goals is to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity. This mapping project is something that can really help advance the ideal for everyone.”
“In addition to the maps I’m working on currently, I used SOLIDWORKS in my summer internship. I worked for Airbus Defense and Space Houston and where I used SOLIDWORKS to design cube satellites and fit check devices that are going to be used for people who are testing their shapes or testing their pay loads that are going to go up on the ISS. Since I was using SOLIDWORKS so much, I decided I might as well get certified. I watched a ton of videos included with my Student Edition, and took the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate Exam. I actually got a 100% on it – it was super exciting!”
Keep an eye out for Tyler Wooten, we’re sure he’s up to greatness. You can keep tabs on the project by visiting Tyler’s GoFundMe Campaign. And as always, thanks for reading!