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Spring Grove High School student designs iPad device to help visually-impaired classmate

Eleventh grader, Alex Fiorillo, used a 3D printer to create a raised keyboard cover for his classmate, Valerie Alonso Rosado.
Credit: WPMT

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — For Spring Grove High School student Valerie Alonso Rosado, her iPad is her lifeline.

That's because she has trouble communicating verbally.

Valerie is also visually impaired.

"Unfortunately because of her visual impairment, she wasn’t able to differentiate between the different keys on the iPad communication device,” said Alyssa Gausmann, Valerie's support teacher.

That's where fellow student, Alex Fiorillo, came to the rescue.

The eleventh grader, who’s also a member of the school’s rocketry team, used a 3D printer to design a raised keyboard cover for Valerie.

“It’s a wonderful feeling honestly that I helped a fellow student and that I have that sort of legacy and I almost left my mark in a way," said Fiorillo.

Alex, who hopes to one day go into aerospace engineering, was first given a template to work with, but found it was bulky and awkward for Valerie.

After a few tweaks, he created his very own prototype.

“There were some issues with the raised features with their thickness but after that it worked pretty well," said Fiorillo.

The keyboard cover separates Valerie’s screen into 84 buttons which match up with commonly-used words in both English and Spanish, helping her have a voice in school and at home.

“Navigating a traditional iPad screen requires a lot of hand over hand assistance whereas now with her communication device, she’s able to kind of navigate the keys and find things independently," said Gausmann.

After seeing Valerie’s success, Alex plans to continue creating more keyboard covers to help others who face similar challenges.

"Any other students that come through this school, or just in general wherever they are, we can 3D print something in a couple hours and have it out to them, we can mail it or deliver it or something like that," said Fiorillo.

“To explain how the 3D printing worked to us, it’s such a far-out concept to me but it was really amazing he was able to do that for her," added Gausmann.

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