Discovery Series: Dr. Henry "Trae" Winter

Date & Time: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2022 - 10:00am

 Discovery Series Logo

Discovery Series Presents:

Topic: The Eclipse Soundscapes Projects: How ARISA Lab is making science more inclusive, accessible, and engaging for everyone
Speaker: Dr. Henry "Trae" Winter, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at ARISA Lab, LLC.

Abstract: NASA has a strong focus on ensuring that their programs reach out to diverse populations. Yet in 2017 there were no plans to provide NASA content or information on the upcoming total solar eclipse in a way that was accessible to people who were blind and low-vision (BLV). With a plan to have members of the BLV community be active participants in an eclipse, the Eclipse Soundscapes team partnered with NASA to build a mobile application using universal design of learning principles to make the eclipse exciting and engaging for sighted and non-sighted users.  Using the original Eclipse Soundscapes mobile application project as a template, the ARISA Lab was formed to build upon the lessons learned in 2017 and create even more inclusive and accessible tools and experiences. Eclipse Soundscapes remains an important part of ARISA's portfolio, with a new bilingual version of the original mobile app being the new lab's first project.  ARISA Lab is also partnering with NASA to create the Eclipse Soundscapes: Citizen Science Project which will engage both sighted and non-sighted participants to work together, on equal footing, to perform meaningful scientific research on how eclipses in 2023 & 2024 will affect wildlife populations across the US. In this talk we will be discussing the strategies used to overcome the challenges of making astronomical events accessible and why making accessible experiences is important to everyone, not just people who have been labeled as disabled.

Bio: Trae is a solar astrophysicist who has worked on eight NASA missions observing the Sun. His primary research focus was understanding how energy is released in the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, and in other stars. Trae spearheaded many efforts to engage the public in scientific discovery, including work with the Montana Space Grant Consortium, the Salish-Kootenai Flathead Lake Reservation, and the Boston Lyrical Opera. To highlight the spectacular images being produced by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, Trae designed a series of video wall exhibits for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, North Carolina State University’s Hunt Library, the Harvard Art Museums’ Lightbox Gallery, and the Museum of Boulder. However, Trae quickly realized that particular people who were blind and low-vision (BLV) had no access to the exhibits he was helping to create, or to science and astronomy in general.

To make science accessible to everyone, Trae began the Eclipse Soundscapes Project that built a mobile application that would engage all users with the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. Consultants, who were themselves blind, were included at every stage of the application’s design process. The application used images, spoken word descriptions, sound, and touch to make eclipse features accessible and engaging to everyone as they were occurring. Based on the success of the Eclipse Soundscapes Project model, Trae and MaryKay Severino founded the ARISA Lab which could quickly assemble highly trained and diverse teams to invent the new technologies and techniques necessary to make scientific exploration effective, accessible, and engaging for everyone.