By Kelly Chen
A Night of Fascination at Ability First was very fascinating indeed… not only for the participants but for us volunteers as well. Before I get started on the event, let me provide some background information about the organization that hosted this event. AbilityFirst was formerly known as the Crippled Children Society before they changed the name to be more politically correct. AbilityFirst is a non-profit organization that works with children and adults with developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, schizophrenia, or autism. Their mission statement is “looking beyond disabilities, focusing on capabilities, [and] expanding possibilities.” At the center, they believe that an individual shouldn’t be defined by his or her disabilities. Instead, they want to push past those boundaries and help the participants reach their full potential and become more independent. A Night of Fascination was a social event that was dedicated to work precisely on expanding the participants’ capabilities.
Technology plays such a big role in our life, especially in the twenty-first century. The primary purpose of this event was to exposed the participants to technology and teach them how to integrate it into their daily life. Volunteers worked with participants individually to help them set up their own email address and Facebook accounts. They wanted them to be available to communicate with others through technology. In addition to emails and Facebook, an iPad section was set up to teach the participants how to use an iPad. Games and learning apps were already installed on each iPad, and volunteers were assigned to help participants play around with the iPad and explore the many different functions.
For this event, Ability First invited the California Science Center and Jet Propulsion Lab (J.P.L) to come to the center to do some cool demos to show the participants how fun science can be. The California Science center did cool experiments and demos with the explosions which were awesome. The participants really seemed to enjoy watching the demonstrations. JPL also brought in some cool technology to the center. There was a robot with a camera that could be maneuvered from a computer. The robot would be really helpful for those with disabilities to be more involved with the outside world. Two 3-D printing machines were also set up in the center and made models of the Curiosity spacecraft that just landed on Mars not too long ago. JPL developed a special application for the iPad that could transform a coded image to a virtual spacecraft. The participants had a lot of fun playing with that application and learning about spacecrafts.
The participants definitely learned a lot from this event, but they weren’t the only ones. This experience was rewarding as a volunteer because we got to help others and also learn cool things about science and technology at the same time. Some volunteers were assigned specifically to work with the representatives from JPL or California Science Center. I was able to chat with the guys from JPL and learned about the design and function of the Curiosity spacecraft. I also learned about how 3-D printing works and also how to control a robot from the computer. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be exposed to this technology if I didn’t come to this event. A Night of Fascination was full of learning, helping, and exploring. I was definitely fascinated throughout this event.