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Lesson 2:  What is Empathy?


Passion and empathy play a role in how we become involved in solving problems.  Watch the clips below from Apollo 13, engineers are given only the items aboard the spacecraft Apollo 13 to create an air filter that is necessary for the astronauts to continue to breathe while in space.

Discussion:  What is the role of empathy in solving problems
  • What role does passion and empathy play?

  • What is the problem?

  • How do the engineers solve the problem?

  • What attributes of teamwork are present that are helpful to the situation?

  • What is not helpful?


EMPATHY is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.  Meet Erik Wehenmayer and how innovative thinking has helped him “see” in a new way.


How I See It: Erik Wehenmayer

How can empathy affect different groups of people in our lives and the world?

Students will use their Rings of Impact handout to mark whether each invention will impact the inventor, the inventor’s family, community, country or the world.  

Empathy graphic organizer.PNG

Today we will be providing you with a snack!  You will use the bandana on your table to make a blindfold by folding it and tying it around your head. You may talk with others during the snack, but are not allowed to peek, or state out loud what you think you are eating.

When you have finished, you will record the following information on the graphic organizer:

  • What was difficult about the disability?

  • If you could create a device to help people with this disability, what would it be?


You will now participate in a series of disability simulations, completing the organizer as you go.

Once all students have experienced each station, the teacher will lead a discussion about what students experienced and what ideas you have for a solution.

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Task 4: Brainstorming 101
Extension Activity

What other disabilities can be solved through technology? Watch the following video and select two stories and think about who the specific user is, the problem the user experienced, and consequence of inaction.  In other words, what would happen if this problem is not solved.  For example:

Let's practice using your experience with Snack in the Dark:


Specific User:  Diners who cannot see

Problem/Need: Identifying food they cannot see

Consequence of Inaction:  Eating something they do not like; eating something they are allergic to or will make them sick; eating spoiled food

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