The first step of developing the project was a complete tour of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA. Kevin Hartigan became my contact at Perkins. throughout the process.
ALT TEXT A bearded man wearing a lanyard walks through stone archway to greet two boys, one tall and one short. I am the tall one and I am wearing a baseball cap and an athletic jacket
The DCR trail near Perkins served as a model for many of the moves that we made with the Tupelo Trail.
ALT TEXT There is a sandy trail in an open field. A man leads me along it as I am holding a guide rope on the right.
Touring the DCR Blind Trail near Perkins with my blindfold, I was able to get an idea of what kind of exhibits would and wouldn't apply to the Tupelo Trail.
ALT TEXT In my blindfold, I am feeling a stone thatis inscribed with a tactile image
The info stations on the Perkins/DCR trail served as a point of departure for my design.
INNOVATION: I later decided that the inlaid design was overly complex and distracting so I modified our plan to create one uniform surface.
ALT TEXT I am smiling as I feel an information stand along the trail. It is made of stone and it has a sloped metal surface that shows regular text on the front and braille on the back. The guideropes stretch out in the background.
I studied how blind students at Perkins use the Natural Science collection to learn about natural world. Here, I grasped the importance of feeling objects of all sizes.
INNOVATION: This shark became the inspiration for engaging with the huge Wolf Tree at the end of the trail.
ALT TEXT A bearded man with a lanyard speaks to me as I feel a full-size model of a great white shark. There are shelves with other animals and nature models behind him.
Mr. Hartigan worked with me to get a solid understanding of how braille is translated and produced, and the importance of having braille reviewed before it is 'published for blind readers on the trail.
ALT TEXT I stand looking at Mr. Hartigan who is explaining an exhibit to me. The exhibit is full of photos and text and it has a title "Library and Howe Press."
Back at home, my first experiment was the production of braille using the set-and-tap method. This produced passable results that were legible but not ideal.
ALT TEXT A small peice of wood is shown with a braille printout attached to it. Tweezers pull the paper away from the wood.
INNOVATION: I improved the production method by creating a lockable tweezer setup. This helped the setting process and the braille become much more uniform and legible.
ALT TEXT Tweezers hold a nail on the piece of wood next to a hammer.
I crafted and hand-sanded the marker buoys at home.
INNOVATION: I worked with Camelot Industries in Stoughton to inscribe the marker bouys using digital files and a laser inscription process.
ALT TEXT Three hand-sized shapes, prisms, cylinders and boxes, and they are inscribed with regular text.
INNOVATION: Camelot Industries normally only inscribes trophies, but they were interested in my project and willing to try something new by inscribing on curved softwood. The process took some trial and error and a lot of ruined buoys but we arrived with a perfect finished product.
ALT TEXT I stand wearing a blue hoodie and holding a wood cylinder next to a man holding a wood prism. We are both are smiling and looking into the camera
The first design was tweaked several times to balance conservation requirements, good ergonomics, and to strike a balance between how the scientists wanted the text to read and the space limitations once the braille was translated.
Each station required at least 4 revisions with the SSNSC scientists and that National Printing House for the Blind to strike this balance.
ALT TEXT An open notebook shows a hand drawn sketch of the profile of a person in front of a post with his hand on the post. There are handwritten notes and measurements on the drawing, drawn in pencil.
The trail sits on wetland setback areas so being sustainable was an important goal. One of the ways that the project is "green" is by using 100 percent reused rope.
INNOVATION I used tools that are usually used for cleaning marine lines to make sure that the rope was refreshed but that it would also not be compromised by cleaning process.
ALT TEXT Thick white rope is shown in a coil shape on pavement in the sun.
A local construction company (Gledhill Construction) got interested in the project and trained me on the tools required to construct the stations.
ALT TEXT A I use a peice of machinery to drill a hole in a large piece of wood. A man in a tshirt and shorts looks at the drill making the hole.
I explained the need to make the joinery exact and the team helped me figure out how to unite very precise braille plates to very large timbers in a way that would look and feel right.
INNOVATION: I tweaked the standard inlaid design so that the stations could be built on budget and also so the feeling was simpler, leading the user to focus on the environment more.
ALT TEXT I hold a metal braille plate onto a large wood post while two men look on.
Getting the holes right for the stations to receive rope
INNOVATION: Using long lengths of rope allowed the SSNSC to change the ropes over time.
ALT TEXT I hold a hand drill in a sunny space, while a man in a tshirt watches my work. There are wood shavings on the wood that I am drilling.
I had to devise a way to make end clamps to hold the bouys in place and keep the rope taut.
INNOVATION I found a pipe clamping system at Lowe's that allowed a simple crimp that can was easy to install. Lowes got interested in the project and gave us a demo model of the special clamp that was needed.
ALT TEXT A clean peice of rope is attached to a wood cylinder with metal hardware
Finishing the stations was important was they needed to be completely splinter free.
ALT TEXT I am using a tool with an attached hose on a large peice of wood
I wrote the text for the stations myself and had it edited several times by the SSNSC scientists.
I learned that digital translating programs are inferior to human braille translation. The National Printing House for the Blind in Kentucky got interested in the project and helped me with the translation of the text for free. An engraver on "Etsy" produced the visual text plates and helped with the graphics I wanted.
Uniting the science of the text in a way that allows for the braille to fit on the plates was the biggest challenge of the project but after several go-arounds we got it right
A local saw mill (Marshfield Lumber) got interested in the project and donated huge milled timbers. A chain saw was needed to get the angles that I needed for the braille and text plates.
ALT TEXT I use a tape measure on a large peice of wood. I am standing in a workshop with many tools and wood in the background. A man uses a chainsaw to cut a large peice of wood to my right.
Getting the ergonomics right was important to make sure that blind users of most heights could read the braille comfortably.
INNOVATION: We changed the angle of the plates so that more braille text could be used. This change of geometry satisfied the scientist at the SSNSC.
ALT TEXT I use a measuring tape on a large peice of finished wood
Getting the plates to align perfectly was they key to making my idea for a uniform plate work. It involved geometry and trial and error.
ALT TEXT I use sandpaper to finish two large posts that have been mounted with metal braille and text plates. The sun illuminates the new metal plates.
I started out using a 3D printer to make reliefs for the vernal pool and Tupelo stations. But then Perkins users told us that more realistic models would tell the story better.
INNOVATION A local artist, Andrea Williams, became interested in the project and helped me create durable reliefs of the diagrams. They were fired out of PMC clay which turns to bronze when it is fired.
ALT TEXT Clay imprints of tadpole eggs and the life cycle of a frog
FInding the right adhesive to adhere the aluminum braille plates and the the stainless steel text plates involved a lot of trail and error.
ALT TEXT I hold several clamps that are holding metal plates together to a wood base. I am standing in a kitchen with a sink behind me.