A 3-D map helps a visually impaired student find her way. The map was produced using a 3-D printer awarded to Stephen F. Austin State University graduate student and Whitehouse ISD educator Lannette Burlingame and SFA alumna and contract instructor Kimberly Bittick through a grant for their "Learning in Three Dimensions" project, which seeks to find creative ways of making 2-D into 3-D learning for students who have visual impairments.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Lannette Burlingame, a Stephen F. Austin State University special education graduate student, and orientation and mobility alumna Kimberly Bittick have been named Whitehouse Independent School District Innovators of the Year for their "Learning in Three Dimensions" project.

"There are so many wonderful educators in our district, and I am very humbled to be selected for this award," Burlingame said. "Most of all, I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to provide the innovative teaching materials that a 3-D printer can provide to our students."

During the fall, Burlingame and Bittick, who is a contract orientation and mobility instructor, completed a grant and project proposal for their "Learning in Three Dimensions" initiative, which seeks to find creative ways to transform 2-D into 3-D learning for students with visual impairments.

In their grant proposal to the Whitehouse Education Foundation, the educators explained that a 3-D printer would provide them with better opportunities to directly teach abstract concepts to students, as well as support teachers and parents of students with visual impairments. The foundation awarded the pair the grant.

"The 3-D printer has opened up new ways of delivering instruction to our visually impaired students. We can now think about the various instructional materials needed to teach concepts in new and innovative ways because the sky is the limit with 3-D printing," Burlingame said. "If we can imagine it and design it on the computer, the 3-D printer can make it a reality."

Burlingame, who has been a special education teacher for more than 20 years and teaches students with visual impairments from birth to age 22, is pursuing a master's degree in special education with a specialization in visual impairment at SFA.

Through the grant, Burlingame was granted additional funding to help purchase a 3-D scanner to accompany the printer. Using this technology, Burlingame and Bittick are able to print 3-D models to help students with body, environmental and spatial concepts, perceptual, sensory, mobility, orientation and decision-making skills, organization and time management.

An especially impressive function of the technology is its ability to create tactile maps.

"The detail and portability of the tactile maps we can produce rival other forms," Bittick said. "One of our most exciting projects involves helping students prepare for a trip to Washington D.C. with the band. We produced a map of the National Mall that fits in the palms of their hands. I am going to use this map to project the route of the monument tour."