IDEAS 2: Developing Abilities and Knowledge for Careers in Design and Engineering for Students on the Autism Spectrum by Scaling Up Making Experiences
2019 to 2024

This project scales up an earlier NSF ITEST project called IDEAS: Inventing, Designing, and Engineering on the Autism Spectrum, in which a multidisciplinary team from New York Hall of Science, New York University, New York City educators, and SRI International adapted a museum-based maker program so that it could be run in three autism inclusion middle schools by teachers in those schools. The current project builds on the lessons learned from that project to bring maker programming to a wider range of students, teachers, and schools, and to increase the education community’s understanding about how maker programming can help young people on the autism spectrum gain the skills and interest necessary for careers in design and engineering. 

The goals of the project are (1) to expand the program to more autism inclusion middle schools, (2) to expand the program to autism inclusion elementary and high schools, (3) to make the program sustainable by facilitating local adaptation in autism inclusion schools, (4) to shift the ownership of the program to autism inclusion schools and New York City’s professional development providers and special education office, and (5) to explore more broadly how making can support autism inclusion efforts in general. To achieve these goals, we are engaging in a collaborative co-design process that includes current partners (Education Development Center, New York University’s ASD Nest Support Project, New York Hall of Science), as well as autism inclusion schools (teachers and principals) and an advisor from the New York City Department of Education’s Special Education Office. The team is creating digital assets for professional development and program implementation that will be available for all autism inclusion schools in New York City and any other schools, organizations, or community groups that want a maker program that has been developed and tested in autism inclusion settings. In addition to the resources we are developing, this project is building knowledge in the larger special education and informal education communities about how making can enhance autism inclusion efforts and increase the participation of young people on the autism spectrum in STEM careers.