Summer Study '02: What Did the Phase II Scholars Do?

Phase II Scholars return to the University of Washington campus for their second Summer Study. They met the Phase I Scholars as they participate in their first Summer Study, learned about college life and career preparation, and participated in a one-week workshop with postsecondary instructors.

Making our National Parks More Accessible to People with Disabilities

By Scholars Brandi, Jacob, Amy, and Chris B., and Interns Susanna and Zach

Our Phase II workshop was to figure out what we would do to make the national parks and services more accessible to those who have disabilities. We went on a field trip to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in downtown Seattle. We saw things there that needed improvement. We recommended accommodations, not just for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, but also for every national park in the United States and possibly the world, too. We came up with solutions to the problems we saw there. We decided that there was a need for the narrative tapes so that deaf people could understand what was said. Some tables needed to be lowered for wheelchairs so people could see at eye level. Larger prints were also needed for the narrative stories on the walls for those who are visually impaired, and, for those who cannot see anything, there should be Braille. The computer that was there should be on an adjustable table instead of being inside a cabinet. The bathrooms need to have better locks and also signs so people will know where the bathrooms are. In the auditorium, more wheelchair spaces are needed.

Learning About Usability

By Scholars Caleb, Jeff, Matt, and Sarah

In our workshop we learned about usability engineering. We learned what usability means and how to conduct a usability test. We also tested the accessibility features in Windows XP™ and talked about what things Microsoft should improve.

Usability engineering is the study of what makes a product usable. The study of usability examines the experience users undergo with a product and seeks ways to improve that experience. When performing usability tests, usability engineers recruit participants who would actually use the product.

One of the methods usability engineers use is the Think Aloud Protocol. In this process, the tester asks the participant to verbally explain what they are doing and what they are thinking. If the participant forgets to talk or stops talking, the tester gently reminds the participant by saying, "keep talking," or asking questions like, "What are you looking for?"

We tested some of the accessibility features of Windows XP, such as the onscreen keyboard and Narrator. We also tested how easy they were to find. Here are some of the issues we discovered:

  • Some of the features are hard to find because they are in different places than they were in previous versions of windows, like the numeric keypad mouse, Narrator, the high contrast settings and the onscreen keyboard.
  • The onscreen keyboard does not appear until after the user has logged into their account, which requires entering a password. So, if the user requires an onscreen keyboard in order to enter a password, then the user cannot log in.
  • The high contrast mode worked for the operating system itself, but did not affect the screen display on programs or applications.

Special thanks to our interns Stephanie, Carole, Emma, and Chanterelle.

The Game of Life 2002

By Scholars Elizabeth, Chris, Mike, and Brad

What do you typically think about when someone says the words summer camp? You're probably not thinking about what high school students call brainstrain, otherwise known as "The Game of Life." Indeed life is hard, but the Phase II Scholars have diligently learned how to make it a game. We experimented with a computer game played with colored squares on a grid. "The Game of Life" is a world of problem-solving strategies created by Conway.

In this game, you are a cell trying to determine your behavior based on the cells that surround you. Using this method, Chris, Mike, Brad, and Elizabeth created rules later translated to java code.

From The Game of Life, the Scholars moved on to bigger and better things exhibiting creativity along the way. Brad used pictures of past Scholars to present the dithering effect and had fun bringing his favorite cartoon character. Mike brought pictures from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life for the blind by printing the image in Braille. Mike also read up on the history of the game and created Wolfram's world, a world of mathematical patterns based on simple rules. Chris developed a predator-prey game, and Elizabeth experimented with modifying the Game of Life as well as creating the shadow, fill, move, and step graphics. While working with people with past experience in the logic of The Game of Life, we discovered new things, conquered frustrations, and came away with a very rewarding sense of accomplishment.