Outreach and Students with Disabilities

Auburn University’s Promising Practices for K-12 Students with Disabilities 

By Overtoun Jenda, Auburn University

The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Auburn University engages in efforts that help students from a wide variety of underrepresented groups succeed in college and get into successful careers. We focus on increasing the number of students with disabilities pursuing science, technology, and engineering. Some capable students with disabilities are not encouraged to attend college while they are in high school; that is something we would like to change.

At Auburn, we host educational conferences and presentations that focus on how students with disabilities can successfully transition to college, including an annual statewide transition conference for high school special education students. Through these presentations, teachers, parents, and students learn more about accommodations, living arrangements, success stories, and a wide variety of other transitional topics.

Auburn also has multiple summer camps. Our Computer Science K-12 Inclusive Outreach camp aims to create an environment that is inclusive of students with disabilities in elementary and middle school; it introduces computer science and computational thinking. Our week-long ACT/College Prep for high school students with disabilities, funded by the Alabama Governor’s Office on Disability, introduces students to a college campus while providing ACT and college prep materials and presentations from individuals with disabilities.

Finally, through the Alabama Alliance for Students with Disabilities in STEM, a National Science Foundation funded program that includes four universities, a community college, and local school districts, students participate in peer mentoring. In audition, Auburn students and faculty visit high schools, and high school students and teachers visit the Auburn campus. These activities help high school and postsecondary students learn about and prepare for the next steps in progressing through undergraduate and graduate studies and entering STEM careers.

K-12 Engineering Outreach for Students with Disabilities: Inspiring Engineers Inside and Outside of the Classroom 

By Anna Leyf Starling, North Carolina State University

The Engineering Place at North Carolina State University educates, both directly and indirectly, the citizens of North Carolina, particularly K-12 students, about the nature of engineering and the opportunities and careers in engineering fields. Its goals are accomplished through hands-on, inquiry- and problem- based programs and informational workshops and tools. Our vision is that every student, educator, and parent in North Carolina will know what engineering entails as well as the impact that engineering has on everyday life. K-12 students engage in engineering through hands-on programs and informational workshops. We work on curriculum development and host a series of different programs, including Family STEM night, Engineering on the Road, and summer engineering camps.

This year, we are building on research and promising practices to increase efforts in actively recruit students with disabilities, taking care to address issues since engineering topics appeal to a variety of learners and a variety of skill sets. We recently published an article titled “Improving science scores for students with learning disabilities through engineering problem solving activities” in the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals that looked at how hands-on versus explicit instruction in engineering projects affects science quiz scores for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We found that students with learning disabilities or ADHD benefit from a combination of hands-on learning and explicit instruction. Teachers should provide students with structure, guided notes, and repetition of material, as well as opportunities to engage in hands-on, problem solving activities that allow students to apply what they know.

Incorporating engineering in K-12 education will better prepare all students for engineering programs in college and give them the background to be successful in engineering careers. We want to give students with disabilities the tools and role models to succeed. This year, we plan on hosting a summer engineering experience for students with visual impairments, as well as a STEM Career showcase for students with disabilities.

Teach Engineering provides a plethora of educational tools and resources on engineering topics.