STEM Activity: Visionaries

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STEM Activity: Visionaries

Envision the ultimate bionic eye for World Sight Day!
 

Materials Needed

  • Design materials (e.g., boxes, resealable plastic bags, pipe cleaners, plastic bottles, straws)
  • Lights
  • Reflective materials (e.g., aluminum foil, compact mirrors, mylar, sequins)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Water
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring (optional)

 

At-Home Instructions

  1. Go online and find an image showing the anatomy of the eye.
     
  2. Notice that the eye has structures to bend light (cornea and lens with attached muscles) as it enters the eye, as well as fluid-filled chambers (the anterior chamber and vitreous body) that continue to bend the light as it travels through the eye. Bending light in the exact right way is one of the keys to vision!
     
  3. Begin thinking about how to design an enhanced robotic (or bionic) eye by gathering any available materials that can be used to bend and/or reflect light.
     
  4. Strategize how to incorporate fluid and consider adding liquid watercolors for pigment — another feature of the eye found in the iris and retinal pigment epithelium.
     
  5. In addition to bending light, what other features might your bionic eye have? Can it control, interact with or communicate with other objects? Does it have special features for operating in different environments?
     
  6. Gather any remaining design materials and build your bionic eye!

 

Educators: Use this activity in the classroom with these modifications!

Continue to explore the eye by printing out images of eyes from different animals and compare them. Some interesting examples include the eyes of sheep, cuttlefish, owls, dragonflies, snakes, chameleons, leopards, deer and spiders. Discuss the similarities and differences your students observe and investigate the role between eye structure and function. For example, does a particular animal usually view objects underwater or in the air? At night or during the day? While gazing out across a wide, open area, or while rapidly darting around in an object-filled space? How do the eye’s structural features help the animal in these roles?        

 

What are we learning?

Vision blurs when light that is bent by the cornea, lens and fluid of the eye does not hit the retina’s focal point. Throughout history, visionaries have sought to solve this problem by bending light — from Leonardo da Vinci first proposing the contact lens over 500 years ago to the soft, comfortable contact lenses invented by National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Otto Wichterle, that millions of people wear today!

LASIK surgery, which applies the excimer laser surgery method co-invented by NIHF Inductees
Samuel E. Blum, Rangaswamy Srinivasan and James J. Wynne, goes even farther, permanently correcting fuzzy vision by using a laser to remove a flap of the cornea, reshape it and reattach it to the eye.

Recently,
the first bionic eyes have entered the public market, offering hope for the blind to gain the power of sight! What do you envision for the future of sight?

 

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