Salmon Arm teen on a roll with braille dice for visually impaired

15-year-old Michael Gravells benefits from Salmon Arm Innovation Centre sponsorship

Thanks to 15-year-old Michael Gravells, a visually impaired friend of the family will have a better handle on rolling spells and avoiding attacks.

With resources at Salmon Arm’s Makerspace in the Innovation Centre powered by SASCU, Gravells has begun 3D printing braille dice for the game Dungeons and Dragons.

He was inspired to make the dice when he heard about a family friend in need of something more tactile to play the roleplaying game.

“My dad actually gave me the idea; he has a friend in Calgary who is blind and he asked me if I could print some because his friend mentioned that the dice that he had were a bit small, so I could print ones that were bigger and easier to feel,” Gravells said.

So far Gravells has printed a 20-sided die (D20) and four-sided die (D4), and will likely deliver them in person when the family makes the trip to Calgary closer to Christmas.

The Salmon Arm teen first heard about programs at the Makerspace in Grade 8 when he participated in an after-school workshop program.

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“When I heard about the Makerspace I started coming to some of their open houses… and I was able to try out the VR and 3D printing, and that’s what got me interested,” Gavells said.

Gravells has also printed Dungeons and Dragons characters for some of his friends, a Star Wars Death Star ice-cube mold and a creeper from Minecraft.

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The 3D dice models Gravells used were designed by the DOTS RPG Project, a non profit organization that donates dice and other accessible gaming materials to game stores and schools worldwide. The dice models have been offered to the public for over a year.

Thomas Briginshaw, director for the Innovation Centre, hopes their sponsorship program, which has helped Gravells, will encourage other youth to visit the Makerspace and experiment with the technology available.

“The main goal of the sponsorship is to give opportunities to youth who may not be able to afford a membership – the opportunity to come and learn and make all these cool things and become part of the community,” Briginshaw said.

So far Gravells is the first and only recipient of the sponsorship, but the Innovation Centre has received more sponsorships, including one from the Shuswap Family Centre and one from Okanagan College.

In order to receive the sponsorship, applicants with financial need must submit a 60- to 90-second video including an introduction, what they like about the Makerspace and what they would like to make and/or learn.

The Innovation Centre will film this video for the applicant if they don’t have access to a camera.

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“Michaels’ video was great; he talked a little bit about how he likes to come here after school. He showed off some of the things he had been making already… some of his favourite 3D prints,” said Briginshaw. “He talked about some of the 3D prints he was planning on making and then he mentioned that his parents think he is too young for a job.”

This fall, the Innovation Centre will have another round of applications for the scholarship and will be accepting applicants based on the amount of funding received.


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Part of Michael Gravells’ collection of 3D printed trinkets at the Salmon Arm Innovation Centre on Thursday, June 27. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)

Michael Gravells checks on his most recent 3D print at the Salmon Arm Innovation Centre on Thursday, June 27. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)

Michael Gravells printed a set of braille dice for a visually impaired family friend at the Salmon Arm Innovation Centre on Thursday, June 27. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)

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