Engineering a New Learning Environment For Neurodiversity

Researchers in the School of Engineering are working on a five-year project to improve the learning environment for students on the neuordiversity spectrum. (Getty Images)


By: Eli Freund, Editorial Communications Manager, UConn School of Engineering

When it comes to educating the most diverse student pool possible, University of Connecticut Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Head Maria Chrysochoou thinks the system might be broken.

Not broken in a sense that engineering students are going into the workforce unprepared, but broken in a way that doesn’t allow for a myriad of learning styles—especially ones aimed at a neurodiverse population.

Armed with a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s RED (Revolutionizing Engineering Departments) program, Chrysochoou, and her collaborators—CEE Professor Amvrossios Bagtzoglou and CEE Associate Professors Arash Zaghi, Nicholas Lownes, Tim Vadas, NEAG Associate Professor Rachael Gabriel, and CETL Director Peter Diplock —are on a mission to transform their department into a safe and inclusive environment for students with cognitive differences that fall onto the neurodiversity spectrum, for example, students with autism, ADHD, anxiety, or dyslexia.

The biggest reason for their push is that the success metrics for neurodiverse students are bleak, especially in the STEM fields. A review of the literature done by Chrysochoou and her group revealed that only 3% of college students with ADHD study engineering, and while 34% of college students on the autism spectrum were enrolled in a STEM-related field, only 5% were enrolled in engineering programs.

To learn more, click here to read the full article on UConn Today.