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Published: Thursday, 1/6/2005

Sylvania: Safety committee hears presentation from robotics team

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Aaron Matesz, Rowan Shaw, Ian Shaw, Tyler Savino, Kevin David, and Brian Sherman of the Circuit Breakers robotics team. Aaron Matesz, Rowan Shaw, Ian Shaw, Tyler Savino, Kevin David, and Brian Sherman of the Circuit Breakers robotics team.
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Improvements in accommodating the disabled, particularly in Sylvania's downtown area, will be given a close look, members of City Council's safety committee said after hearing a presentation from a Sylvania-area robotics team.

The Circuit Breakers, a group between the ages of 10 and 14 who compete in designing and operating robots, told the committee that their task this year had led them to study accessibility for the disabled in the area.

They brought some of their findings to the committee, suggesting the city look into ways in which people with handicaps could move more easily on the streets and in businesses.

Lori Shaw is a coach of the Circuit Breakers and said this year's challenge in the Lego-sponsored contest is to design a robot that can, among other things, sense colors and perform tasks according to the colors put in front of it.

Ms. Shaw said the robotic activity in this year's competition is tied to physical handicaps and teams were instructed to survey their communities for ways to make them more accessible.

Members of the team, who will compete in the state competition next week in Dayton, suggested that one thing the city might do is install audible signals with pedestrian signals at downtown crosswalks.

They also suggested that a three-dimensional map be developed and placed at the Sylvania branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Team members said that such maps, when they have precise detail, can be of assistance to people with visual impairments.

A tactile paper map could also be developed with the assistance of the Sight Center, team members said.

The group used a wheelchair to navigate downtown Sylvania streets, and said decorative brickwork in the sidewalks made the wheelchair difficult to control.

Ms. Shaw said the boys had also toured the library branch, Pacesetter Park and other spots.

She said it was not a surprise that access to some of the downtown's older buildings presented problems.

The team suggested that business owners might install signs and have doorbells so people with disabilities could signal workers if they needed assistance to get into the shops.

Mark Luetke, a member of the committee, noted that some of the suggestions aren't only to make life a little easier for those with disabilities, but can be tools for economic growth by making shopping easier.

Team members said they would help the city in making grant requests, and Police Chief Gerald Sobb asked them to contact his office.

He said the police department has personnel who are trained in writing grants and that they could collaborate in the effort to seek funding for some of the suggestions.

Read Backus, chairman of the committee, complimented the team on their research and their appearance at the hearing. He asked that they investigate what grants might be available for some of the suggestions.

Doug Haynam, a member of the committee, commended them for being among the "people who take the initiative.

"By doing the work, you literally force us to take action."

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096



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