Bill Clapp recently retired after thirty years as a professor and chair at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. For the last twelve years he served as the chair of the computer and electronics engineering technology department. At the University he was also the chief engineer for the campus radio station. He used to climb the radio tower until the campus decided blind people should not be climbing towers. He says it is actually much easier if you do not see the ground. His last major project for the University was an autonomous low-cost hovercraft target vehicle for the U.S. Air Force. Bill received a patent for his hovercraft idea in November of 2011.
Bill started to lose his vision twenty years ago and has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosis (RP). His wife is his best friend but his white cane comes in second. Bill and Carol have been married forty-three years and have three children and ten grandchildren. He is loving retirement and now has the time to pursue other interests such as volunteering for the National Federation of the Blind.
Bill Clapp is also a retired U.S. Air Force reserve colonel. He served the last ten years of his military career as a blind person. He clearly remembers his first clue in losing his vision. It was on a firing range for his annual M-16 qualification, fifty rounds into a target one hundred yards away. None of his rounds hit the silhouette target. This was a traumatic experience for someone who had been an expert marksman. He retired in 2004 as a deputy director for over 1,200 scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.
Bill still uses power tools for projects around the house. He will soon be finishing a basement for his son and his family who recently moved back to Utah from Alaska. He is excited about teaching his grandchildren how to use tools.