Tag Archives: innovation lab

Blind Soldering: See Photos from Our First-ever Electrical Workshop

On November 6, the LightHouse held its first-ever soldering workshop for people who are blind or have low vision. It was a huge success, and we have the photographs to prove it! Scroll down for more.

Soldering is a fundamental skill in electronics work that involves using a hot iron to fuse metal to form a permanent connection between electronic components. The aim of the workshop was to help students make their own accessible continuity testers – one of the most fundamental tools for students working in electronics without vision.

While most continuity testers use lights to indicate the strength of electric currents, accessible continuity testers emit a range of tones — high for a free path and low for an impeded path. Unfortunately, accessible continuity testers cannot be purchased, and previous manufacturers have ceased production. Each student left the workshop with a fully-functioning accessible continuity tester for use in their future work; and the skills to solder it themselves.

LightHouse extends a special thanks to Dr. Joshua Miele, Associate Director of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, for facilitating the workshop.

“Blind people are makers. We can do things like soldering and building robots and woodworking,” says Dr. Miele. “We might use slightly different techniques, but the outcome is the same. The LightHouse is all about teaching these alternative techniques so that people can engage in the activities they love, whether they’re sighted or not.”

Here are a few lovely shots from the workshop, by photographer Erin Conger:

The workshop was held in LightHouse's Innovation Lab on the 11th floor. A close-up of the sign outside the STEM lab in room 1145 reads “Innovation Lab Sponsored by Toyota”. A large window reveals a few students hard at work inside the lab.
The workshop was held in LightHouse’s Innovation Lab on the 11th floor. A close-up of the sign outside the STEM lab in room 1145 reads “Innovation Lab Sponsored by Toyota”. A large window reveals a few students hard at work inside the lab.
A diverse array of students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work in the LightHouse’s Innovation Lab. A Be My Eyes poster stands out in the background as an indicator of the space’s many uses.
A diverse array of students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work in the LightHouse’s Innovation Lab. A Be My Eyes poster stands out in the background as an indicator of the space’s many uses, including as a home base for two accessibility start-ups.
Baskets hold some of the essential components for making continuity testers: stainless steel forceps, insulated handle-wire strippers, wire cutters, wrenches, and Phillips-Head screwdrivers. A few spools of insulated wire — also essential — sit to the left.
Baskets hold some of the essential components for making continuity testers: stainless steel forceps, insulated handle-wire strippers, wire cutters, wrenches, and Phillips-Head screwdrivers. A few spools of insulated wire — also essential — sit to the left.
Red, green, black and white insulated wire spools sit on a table. Color indicators help sighted individuals distinguish between wires, while vision impaired students use a system of knots to differentiate between them.
Red, green, black and white insulated wire spools sit on a table. Color indicators help sighted individuals distinguish between wires, while vision impaired students use a system of knots to differentiate between them.
A close up of a student’s hand resting on the table near a soldering iron set in its station. A soldering iron is a handheld tool with an insulated handle and heated metal tip used to melt solder.
A close up of a student’s hand resting on the table near a soldering iron set in its station. A soldering iron is a handheld tool with an insulated handle and heated metal tip used to melt solder.
A group of 13 students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work around the long central table in LightHouse’s Innovation Lab.
A group of 13 students, instructors, and volunteers are hard at work around the long central table in LightHouse’s Innovation Lab.
Six students and volunteers sit around two tables, hard at work. The grey work surface is scattered with castaway bits of wire and solder. The lab’s large windows offer a view of neighboring grey buildings.
Six students and volunteers sit around two tables, hard at work. The grey work surface is scattered with castaway bits of wire and solder. The lab’s large windows offer a view of neighboring grey buildings.
A student’s fingers slide down the length of a pair of stainless steel forceps to find the point of contact on the circuit board. This technique helps students who are blind create landmarks for soldering throughout the process.
A student’s fingers slide down the length of a pair of stainless steel forceps to find the point of contact on the circuit board. This technique helps students who are blind create landmarks for soldering throughout the process.
A curl of smoke rises from the tip of a hot soldering iron as a student melts points of solder onto his circuit board.
A curl of smoke rises from the tip of a hot soldering iron as a student melts points of solder onto his circuit board.
A female soldering student wearing reflective sunglasses and a colorful headband leans over her work station, deep in a concentration. A steel vice is used to steady a yellow circuit board for ease of work while soldering.
A female soldering student wearing reflective sunglasses and a colorful headband leans over her work station, deep in concentration. A steel vice is used to steady a yellow circuit board for ease of work while soldering.
Workshop facilitator Dr. Joshua Miele of the Smith-Kettlewell Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Low Vision and Blindness oversees the work of a male soldering student.
Workshop facilitator Dr. Joshua Miele of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute oversees the work of a male soldering student.
A man in a grey shirt and suspenders clasps a yellow circuit board. Behind him, the student with the tawny shirt is hard at working with his soldering iron in hand. A smattering of tools are sprawled across the table next to a folded cane.
A man in a grey shirt and suspenders clasps a yellow circuit board. Behind him, a student in a  tawny shirt is holding a soldering iron in hand. A smattering of tools are sprawled across the table next to a folded cane.
Clasping a pair of yellow wire-strippers, a female student in a teal shirt uses the instrument’s notched jaws to remove the insulation from a section of yellow wire. Her other tools are scattered on the table in front of her. Other students are hard at work in the background.
Clasping a pair of yellow wire-strippers, a female student in a teal shirt uses the instrument’s notched jaws to remove the insulation from a section of yellow wire. Her other tools are scattered on the table in front of her.
Two older male students collaborate at a busy soldering station.
Two older male students collaborate at a busy soldering station.
A middle-aged blonde male bends over his workstation.
A middle-aged blonde male student bends over his workstation.
A grey-haired student in a black polo shirt glides his hands over the notches on his circuit board.
A grey-haired student in a black polo shirt glides his hands over the notches on his circuit board.
A man with long gray hair and a purple shirt sits facing away at one of the high top work surfaces in the Innovation Lab. His glossy black guide dog is on the floor at his feet, staring directly into the camera.
A man with long gray hair and a purple shirt sits facing away at one of the high top work surfaces in the Innovation Lab. His glossy black guide dog is on the floor at his feet, staring directly into the camera.
A smiling grey-haired male student wearing a black hoodie and a white button-up sits at the table grasping a completed continuity tester.
A smiling grey-haired male student wearing a black hoodie and a white button-up sits at the table grasping a completed continuity tester.

The LightHouse’s Innovation Lab will continue to offer workshops in STEM fields, so stay tuned. It is part of our mission to strengthen the representation of people who are blind or have low vision in the tech industry and other STEM fields.

For more information about future workshops visit the LightHouse Calendar or contact Director of Community Services Lisamaria Martinez via email at lmartinez@lighthouse-sf.org or by phone at 415.694.7350.