IDEAS: Inventing, Designing, and Engineering on the Autism Spectrum
2016 to 2020

With current research indicating that up to one in 59 children is on the autism spectrum, it is critical to create programs that prepare students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to achieve their full potential in the workforce. This three-year Innovative Technology Experience for Students and Teachers (ITEST) Strategies project brought together a team of researchers, Maker program developers from New York Hall of Science, ASD experts and engineering faculty and students at New York University, educators with expertise in supporting students with ASD, and students on the autism spectrum to create a hybrid formal/informal program that prepares middle-school students with and without ASD for careers as inventors, designers, and engineers. The goal is for the program to be sustainably implemented in New York City's ASD inclusion middle schools by educators in those schools.

Our research has found that youth who participated in the program increased their science appreciation and engineering self-efficacy, and gained a better understanding of the engineering design process, and that students on the autism spectrum were able to engage with peers on and off the spectrum at higher rates than is typical. We also found that teachers who helped to develop the program were able to implement it on their own, and reported that their experience conducting an informal maker club helped them gain a better understanding of what all of their students were capable of accomplishing. See our article "Making on and Off the Spectrum" in Connected Science Learning to learn more about the project, or download our IDEAS Maker Program Curriculum.