April 13, 2023

Investing in the future of STEM at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

An ongoing partnership between GarverGives and the school leads to a $20,000 donation for a new makerspace, creating opportunity for students to gain valuable hands-on experience.

Continuing a four-year partnership with Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSVBI), GarverGives committees in eight Texas offices - Austin, College Station, Dallas Fort Worth, Frisco, Georgetown, Harlingen, Houston, and San Antonio - donated a combined $20,000 of grant funding to the school for the creation of a makerspace. Equipped with tools and assistive technology, this unique classroom allows high school students to learn hands-on skills and get real-world experience producing prototypes and physical products that benefit the community.  

“This new space provides students the opportunity to practice working with power tools, a 3D printer, and laser-cutting machines,” said Garver Transportation Manager Bill Nguyen, PE. “It empowers them to pursue a career in STEM.” 

When the school requested the makerspace, Nguyen immediately saw the potential for positive impact. “At Garver, it’s important for us to support innovation, specifically STEM innovation, because there’s a need for more engineers and technical employees across the country,” he said.  

He was also motivated by the opportunity for Garver to create an enduring resource for students at TSBVI. The makerspace is just that. It’s the same size as the other school classrooms, but the similarities end there. A pegboard with hammers, measuring tools, and more lines one wall, shelves with equipment another, and on the other two are long benches and power tools. A collaborative workspace is in the center, stacks of toolboxes on top. Dynamic and innovative, it is built for involved, hands-on STEM-skills learning.  

TSBVI Superintendent Emily Coleman loves that the makerspace supports the school’s passionate teachers and enables them to educate students to be more independent and empowered. And she loves what this resource gives students: “The makerspace - the versatility of it - gives our students the ability to make choices about their future. Anything they want to create or learn about; they have the option to make that happen.”

Nguyen agrees. He enjoys partnering with the current TSBVI teachers and students, and looks forward to seeing the impact the makerspace will have.  “I’m excited to see the many creative ways that this space will be used in this first year, and by future generations of TSBVI students,” he said. 

Nguyen and the team in Garver’s Austin office have been partnering with TSBVI since Garver’s Centennial Celebration in 2019, when TSBVI won the Garver Chain Reaction Challenge, a competition between 100 schools to see who could build the best Rube Goldberg-style chain reaction machine using a Garver-sent STEM kit. With the $5,000 prize money, the school purchased a wood working bench and tools, as students loved the sensory experiences that came with wood working, and the confidence that came with using sanders, saws, and other tools.  

Since then, Nguyen’s team has worked with TSBVI to make and distribute STEM kits for other schools for the blind and visually impaired, and to produce and pack hygiene kits for Austin’s homeless population. The combined giving of the Garver Texas offices for the makerspace is just the latest in an ongoing, meaningful partnership.  

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