Client-Centered Design in Makerspaces to Positively Affect Social, Emotional, and Job-Related Skills in Adolescents with High-Functioning Autism

Research Study

We are a research team from the Education and Engineering Departments at Tufts University’s who are interested in examining how involvement in client-centered projects completed in Makerspaces helps adolescents with autism spectrum disorder create a context where social and job-related skills are required. Several previous studies conducted by most of the researchers involved with this project have shown hands-on engineering projects are a way to affect change in students with autism.

The project consists of a 6 week study (one two-hour session per week) in a workshop format during which the participants be presented with a series of problems for which they must build a solution. In order to do this they must understand the client and work together in a team.

All sessions will take place on the Tufts Medford campus and be held after school. Your child is not obligated to attend all of the workshops in order to participate in our research, although attendance is encouraged. Particiapation can be ended at any time.

During each session, we will present the students with an engineering design activity and break them up into pairs to complete the activity. Each team will work with a variety of tools that include a laser cutter, and LEGO robotics. At some points, they will be using an iPad app to record their design work. Design activities will focus on designing for the client. Activities may include using LEGO to build a car to play soccer and using a laser cutter to address a problem in the workshop.

Eligibility: The research study will include students with high functioning autism. For the purpose of this study, high functioning autism is defined as:

  1. Possessing average to above average intelligence. Evidence of this can be from a standardized intelligence test that they will have already taken this test and that the parents will document the score.
  2. Having no severe cognitive learning deficits. They can mostly function in regular classrooms, with support if needed. An IEP is one way to document this.

Eligibility of participants is determined after surveying parents or legal guardians. We will not ask for or administer additional testing as we will base eligibility on testing and documents that already exist and were developed as part of each student’s diagnosis process. Only one source of documentation from a qualified source will be needed. This could be a physician, psychologist, neurophyschologist, or documentation on an IEP. Documentation may be an IEP or a report generated by a medical professional. If parents prefer that we do not see any of the written documentation, we can speak with a health care provider.

For further information or to sign up for participating, please contact:
Elissa Milto
Director of Outreach, Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach