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May the Braille Be With You!

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      Braille Challenge contestant Zach Nolin poses with members of the Central Garrison of the 501st Legion.

      May the Braille Be With You!

      Blind and low vision youth in grades 1-12 from across Iowa gathered at the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) in Des Moines on Saturday, January 28th to compete in the 2017 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge. The fun-filled day blended serious academic competition with engaging and informative activities for parents, family members, and students new to Braille.

      Iowa's Challenge is a state-level competition affiliated with the National Braille Challenge, a program of Braille Institute of America, Inc. The students are tested on Braille reading & comprehension, speed & accuracy, spelling, proofreading, and tactile graphics. Competing with others their age, those with the highest scores will have a chance to participate in the national competition next summer in Los Angeles.

      The theme of this year's event was decidedly Star Wars-flavored and bore the slogan “May the Braille Be With You.” T-shirts and activities celebrated the theme as rumors circulated of a surprise ending to the day. That surprise came in the form of a visit by members of the Central Garrison of the 501st Legion, who appeared in full Storm Trooper and Star Wars character regalia to interact with the contestants and their families. It was a great way to conclude another year's Challenge, get a photo taken, and do some up close exploring of Storm Trooper gear. 

      Final rankings for the 2017 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge are:

      Rookie Group

      1. Emily Brown
      2. Bailey Martin
      3. Katie Landis

      Apprentice Group (Grades 1-2)

      1. Tayler Soppe

      Freshman Group (Grades 3-4)

      1. Emily Groves
      2. Zachary Nolin
      3. Kayla Bartholomew

      Sophomore Group (Grades 5-6)

      1. Jacob Longmire
      2. Lydia Groenendyk
      3. Brogan Malcolm

      Junior Varsity Group (Grades 7-9)

      1. Shae Cleveland
      2. Angela Wittrock

      Varsity Group (Grades 10-12)

      1. Sawyer Deevers
      2. Jose Gabriel Urbano
      3. Drew Rigby