GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Elementary through high school students who have a visual impairment or are blind conducted scientific research projects and presented them to ECU through the Discoveries in Earth Science program. The program provides an opportunity for students in eastern North Carolina to learn earth science in a university setting.

“This project is showing that students with special needs who are inclusive for that particular group can do science, and they can see science, but see it differently,” said Dr. Rhea Miles, ECU Professor in Science Education.

The DES program allows students who are visually impaired or blind to learn how to independently conduct earth science projects and analyze scientific data with using professional equipment.

The hands-on program develops skills such as identifying rocks, minerals and fossils, read topographic maps, measure water levels in groundwater wells and measure and record water quality parameters.

At ECU’s Flanagan building, student ECU students and faculty of the science department judged the science projects and research the participants had been working on during the program.

“That is what I’m studying. So I do find it very important. And it’s very exciting to see that kids are taking it seriously and are excited to do it. I think it’s important for future because science plays a role in our everyday life,” said Maria Wayand, ECU Science Education student.

The goal is for students to complete projects with minimal or no assistance from the program personnel.

Projects that were presented during included “How Cool is Your Pool” determining which pool in Pitt County had the best water quality, “I Like to Grow Basil but What is the Best Soil?”, “Does a Terrain Effect a Basketball Bounce,” and “What is in Gravel Driveways?”

“We want these students to want to be scientists, or to consider S.T.E.M science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or medicine. So the goal here is to inspire them to motivate them to take that work, and say, hey, I can do this,” said Dr. Miles.

As for what’s next for the students, they’ll receive feedback from the judges on what they presented and make sure they are ready to compete in the regionals happening in February.