Inspiration comes from many places. For Tatiana Jaimes ’22, a mechatronic engineering major at Vaughn College, the blind children in her native country of Colombia were the driving force behind conceptualizing and designing BrailleBud, a teaching tool that encourages pre-k and first-grade children to read by learning the Braille alphabet.
Coming back to America
Although Jaimes was born in New York City, she moved to Colombia with her grandmother to attend elementary school and high school. She explained how the educational system in Colombia focuses strongly on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum. “From a young age, I learned the fundamentals of physics and engineering,” Jaimes said. “I saw how the majority of blind children in my country live in poverty and can’t afford the schools for the blind, not to mention Braille reading materials. I knew this would be one of my callings in life—to develop a device that would give visually-impaired children a chance at literacy and going on to have a fruitful life.”
As high school graduation approached, she began searching for colleges to pursue her degree. Her mother, who lives in New York, discovered Vaughn College. After exploring the degree programs at Vaughn, Jaimes knew the College would be the perfect fit for her. “Although I am bilingual, Vaughn helped guide me through the application process,” she explained. “They eliminated any stress and made it easy to apply.” At 17 years old, Jaimes enrolled in the mechatronics engineering program and the rest—as they say—is history in the making.
Finding her place at Vaughn
Excited to begin her college career, Jaimes said she made the best use of her time and resources on campus. She made friends easily, and took the advice of upperclassmen to join clubs and get involved with collaborating on research papers. She befriended engineering and technology students Alina Santander Vinokurova ’23 and August Rodriguez ’22, who were looking to work on a community-based project. “It was an exciting experience meeting Alina and August,” Jaimes said. “We share the same passion and desire to find a way to solve present day problems by implementing solutions that are not always addressed—such as helping blind children to read.”
Vaughn’s support made it happen
By the summer of 2020, Jaimes and her team conceptualized how to make BrailleBud completely mechanical, and with the help and support of Miguel Bustamante, PhD, assistant professor of engineering and technology and Dr. Hossein Rahemi, chair of Vaughn College’s engineering and technology department, the process was smooth and productive. “Professor Bustamante was instrumental in the development of our first prototype,” said Jaimes. “He suggested we make it more interactive by using the tools of mechatronic engineering, such as adding actuators and audio.” By 2021, the team completed the prototype, with the help and support of Dr. Rahemi, who arranged to have all expenses for the project paid by the College.
The mechanics behind BrailleBud
While the concept of the BrailleBud is not an original idea, it should be noted that Jaimes, Santander Vinokurova and Rodriguez found a way to design a more interactive Braille literacy tool for young children by sharpening their auditory and tactile senses. They also designed BrailleBud to be lighter and more affordable for families of the visually impaired. The tool is designed to be used on three levels: “level one” for letters of the alphabet, “level two” for the learning of small words such as “cat” and “dog,” and “level three” for more complex words, which is currently in development. Their prototype is a tablet that uses three braille cells each with six dots to represent a different letter. Jaimes and her team designed the unit with a passive infrared sensor (PIR) that detects whether the child is hovering over the correct “letter.” It is equipped with audio capabilities that has an encouraging “voice” that praises the child, letting him or her know when an answer is correct.
Using mechatronic engineering to design the prototype
The team combined all three elements of mechatronic engineering—mechanical, electrical and computer—when designing the prototype. For the mechanical aspect, they used the College’s 3D printers to create the “home” of the tablet, which houses the control system and microprocessors. The electrical part of the system uses transistors, solenoids, speakers, and other electrical parts that are used to transmit energy and power the tablet. “Dr. Rahemi was extremely helpful acquiring the components we needed,” Jaimes said. Lastly, the computer engineering aspect uses Arduino’s integrated development environment (IDE), which is part of the coding to power and communicate all the components for each level.
A team effort
Leading the team, Jaimes said she is beyond proud of their accomplishments. “We work so great together,” Jaimes said. “We each bring our level of expertise to the table making this prototype the best it can be.” Jaimes’ responsibility was to build the circuit, Santander Vinokurova worked on the audio function and actuators, while Rodriguez built the “home” and conducted all of the CAD-related work. Together, the team collaborated on the project and contributed to the research paper, “BrailleBud: Transitional Learning Tool from Pre-Literacy to Braille Literacy.” Their paper was presented virtually at the 2021 Latin American and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions (LACCEI) Conference in July and qualified them as finalists at the conference. “We owe our gratitude to Dr. Rahemi for his efforts in having our paper presented at the LACCEI,” Jaimes said humbly. “His support and the support of the Vaughn community helped us get to this point.”
Her future with NASA
Growing up in Colombia instilled many desires in Jaimes. “I realized that opportunities and those ‘a-ha’ moments come when you least expect them,” Jaimes explained. “One day, while in high school, I watched a video of a NASA engineer working on the robotic arm for the Mars rover, Perseverance. It was then that I knew I wanted to pursue a career that was space-related.” As she continues to work on the BrailleBud at Vaughn, she looks forward to living her dream of working at NASA. Last March, she was chosen for the Pathways Internship at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where she worked over the summer. Her exemplary work ethic and leadership roles at Vaughn—combined with her mechatronic engineering focus earned Jaimes a job offer at NASA after graduation. She plans on pursuing a master’s degree in Control Systems and looks forward to working at the job that awaits her at NASA.
“I’m grateful to all of my professors at Vaughn who supported and inspired me to get to where I am today. I learned that engineering is all about teamwork. I look forward to being a part of many teams in the future, working toward the better good.”
Affording a college education may be easier than you think. The window to complete your Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®, begins on October 1 for the 2022-2023 school year. College students currently enrolled for 2021-2022 have until June 30, 2022 to file their applications. Start filling out your FAFSA application here.
At Vaughn College, we are committed to making our degree programs affordable to all students by offering a wide range of financial aid options to help them on their paths to success. In fact, 90 percent of our students are eligible for some type of financial aid, with the average package totaling more than $15,000 per year. We are dedicated to working with every student to help them get the assistance they need to pursue their education, but there are some things students need to do first to make this happen. Here’s what you need to know:
What must be done first?
Completing the FAFSA is the first step in applying for grants, student loans and other types of financial aid. The FAFSA is not only your gateway to applying for federal aid, but it also opens up opportunities for institutional aid in the forms of scholarships and other financial aid programs. Vaughn offers federal, state and institutional funds to help students pay for their education.
Important deadlines for completing your FAFSA application
Enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year begins October 1, 2021. Students who plan on attending a four-year college, university, community college or career school are encouraged to complete the FAFSA as close to October 1 as possible to improve their chances of qualifying for the most aid.
Students seeking financial aid who are currently enrolled in the 2021-2022 school year have until June 30, 2022 to complete their FAFSA applications.
All student applications submitted for admission to Vaughn go through one of two processes to be considered for financial aid:
Merit Aid: All student applications are considered for an academic merit award based on a holistic evaluation of their academic profiles. Due to the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, some student credentials have changed. Vaughn typically requires that all applicants for a Bachelor of Science degree must submit SAT or ACT test scores. In lieu of those scores, applicants will take a Vaughn-administered assessment test to determine their program acceptance and course placement. Grade point average as well as other academic factors may qualify potential candidates for merit awards ranging from $2,000 to $15,200 per academic year.
Need-Based Aid: All students applying for admission are encouraged to complete the FAFSA. This form is filed with the U.S. Department of Education and is used by aid providers to determine the amount of the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC)—which is how much money the student’s family can expect to contribute toward their child’s college education.
The amount of aid is then determined by calculating the difference between the cost of the education and the family’s EFC. This gap is covered by offering qualifying students’ money through Pell grants, scholarships, work-study programs and low-interest loans that are either subsidized or unsubsidized. For students who qualify for a Pell grant, Vaughn offers grants based on need, among other forms of financial aid.
In New York State, students can also qualify to receive aid from the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), which helps eligible residents pay their tuition at approved schools located in the state.
Another option is a Parent PLUS Loan, where parents with established credit can borrow enough money to pay any educational cost (e.g. flight fees) not covered by other types of financial aid.
We are here to help
We understand the challenges that students are facing as they try to navigate through the pandemic. To address the concerns of face-to-face interactions, we are encouraging the use of digital tools to support our students. Offices are currently operating with limited staff on-campus, and Vaughn is utilizing Zoom as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.
If you need help with financial aid, one of our representatives will assist you and your family with information on deadlines for student aid applications, submitting applications and ways to help pay for your education.
How to connect with a financial aid representative from Vaughn
Email and one of our financial aid representatives will set up a time to contact you.
Call 718.429.6600, extension 100 and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.
We have a Financial Aid Zoom Room with set hours which you can join at any time, here’s how:
Hours: Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Note: In-person service is offered by appointment only.
Don’t let the cost of a college education get in the way of pursuing your dream career. Vaughn offers degree programs in engineering and technology, management and aviation. Discover the possibilities of where a futureproof degree from Vaughn can take you.
Welcome back to a new school year! If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we are more resilient than we ever thought. So, give yourself a pat on the back as you prepare to make this year the best one yet.
In this blog, we outline important information you need for the upcoming year, along with some great tips to help you kickstart a successful semester. It’s time to reset your mind: “New Year, New Me!”
What you need to know for the fall semester at Vaughn
Beginning this fall, we are implementing a flexible approach to learning. Students and faculty members will have options that best suit their learning styles and modality of instruction. Most students will have the option to attend class either in-person or via Zoom. As for instruction, we are planning for on-campus, online synchronous (learning together) or online asynchronous (self-paced) options. Check out our complete list of schedules, courses and important campus information here.
Returning to campus safely
Vaughn is committed to maintaining a safe educational environment. Our president, Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo, stresses the importance of returning to campus safely amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Beginning on the first day of class, students will not be permitted in any campus facility without at least one vaccine shot. Everyone will need to be fully vaccinated no later than Monday, October 4. Everyone will need to keep their masks on when moving through the campus and in classrooms. To help in this effort, Vaughn has partnered with VitalCheck, a telehealth screening program, to certify vaccination status, as well as exemptions, and to perform health screenings of all students, faculty and staff. You will need to have uploaded your vaccination status no later than Wednesday, September 1. For more information on vaccination rules, click here.
Getting back in the campus groove
Returning to campus is an exciting time, as students will reconnect with friends and classmates while meeting and making new ones. It’s normal to feel a bit uneasy. After all, most have been attending classes remotely. You may have lost that mojo to get back to the classroom. Did you know that Vaughn’s office of counseling and wellness (OCW) provides counseling and other supportive services for the overall health and well-being of students? If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or just need someone to talk to, we invite you to visit the office of counseling and wellness and speak with Dr. Stacey Dutil.
Tips to reboot your mind
To help you get back into the campus groove, we have put together five helpful tips to reboot your mind for a successful semester:
Go to orientations—Familiarizing yourself with the campus and the latest rules will help to ease your mind and make you better prepared for the semester.
Get organized—Preparing for your classes now will make life easier once they are in full swing. Be sure to have everything you need so that you’ll be ready to go without any delays.
Attend all your classes—Set your alarm clock! Attending all your classes regularly will keep you on track with assignments and prevent you from falling behind.
Meet with professors and advisors—Getting to know your professors and advisers is a key part of building strong relationships for success.
Don’t procrastinate—A wise person once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Tips for personal growth and well-being
Life is all about balance. Yes, it’s important to study and earn good grades, but cutting loose and nurturing your inner self is just as important. Here are some tips to help create a happy mind and spirit:
Expand your circle by joining clubs—Meeting new people, especially ones with similar interests, is a great way of taking your mind off the books and enjoying some camaraderie.
Stay healthy—Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising is more important than you think. It’s all about time management. Set a time to go to bed every night and stick to it. (We’ll give you a pass on the weekends.) Fill your fridge with healthy foods and make time to go for a quick walk during the day. (You’ll get your steps in on campus.) Or, hit the gym when you can.
“Me” time—This may be the best one of all. It’s important to set aside time every day to do something that brings you joy and relaxes your mind.
A message from our president Dr. Sharon B. DeVivo on returning to campus
We are committed to maintaining a safe and high-quality educational environment for everyone and need your understanding to make it work as smoothly as possible. I ask for your patience and flexibility as we navigate this “new normal.” In the meantime, I strongly encourage everyone who can to get vaccinated. The latest variant of the virus is causing the rates to increase across the country and vaccination is the best possible option for a return to normal and the safety of the Vaughn community. The latest information can also be found here. Thank you for your continued cooperation.
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