Diversifying the engineering field leads to advancements in technology and innovation (Advancing Excellence in P-12 Engineering and The American Society for Engineering Education, 2020).
As is the case with marginalized groups in all fields, there continues to be little diversity in engineering, and autistic individuals represent one of these marginalized groups (Wei et al., 2013). Approximately 80% of autistic individuals are unemployed, which impacts financial outcomes and quality of life. In addition to employment and stability that could be provided through a career in engineering, engaging in engineering education ensures that this population develops engineering thinking skills that will enable them to participate and make informed decisions.
Autistic individuals in the engineering workforce are limited because they are underrepresented at all points along the educational pathway (Kouo et al. 2021). Therefore, the inclusion of autistic learners must involve innovative pathways to engineering instruction and opportunities by exploring their potential and their needs.
Engineering Community Inclusion of Individuals with Autism (ECIIA) will advance the mission and research of Engineering for US All (e4usa), which aims to demystify and democratize the learning and practice of engineering by engaging high school students and teachers in a project-based engineering curriculum. ECIIA will leverage virtual reality (VR) technology to develop three hands-on activities from the e4usa curriculum to engage diverse high school students with autism in engineering.
ECIIA is funded by the NSF’s Eddie Bernice Johnson Inclusion Across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) Initiative, which is a comprehensive, national effort designed to enhance U.S. leadership in discovery and innovation by focusing on diversity, inclusion, and broadening participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at scale.
Commitment from Community Collaborators is an essential element of ECIIA and emphasizes that everyone has a responsibility and unique ability to enact inclusive change for students with autism in engineering based on their experiences, expertise, and roles. Community Collaborators will take on the dual role of informing all stages of the project based on their expertise and increasingly gain knowledge from individuals with autism serving as Autism Advisors on how to effectively support and include individuals with autism in engineering through evidence-based practices.
We need your support to broaden the participation and inclusion of individuals with autism in engineering!
You can help in two ways:
- Help us recruit Autism Advisors or Community Collaborators by sending them the link to this page. You can also share the name and contact information of people who may be interested in participating.
- Become a Community Collaborator or Autism Advisor yourself!