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IGERT trainees help middle school students with disabilities advance to regional competition


IGERT trainees are beneficiaries from and for the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology’s Education and Outreach (E&O) program. IGERT trainees have benefitted from the E&O program by gaining experience in curriculum development, outreach strategies, and mentoring. They have benefitted the program by serving as mentors and contributing to the various programs’ development. IGERT trainees participate in job shadow days and other workshops for students in middle and high school. IGERT trainees experience mentoring extends past K-12 students—IGERT students also gain experience mentoring undergraduate students in our Research Experience for Undergraduates and Research Experience for Teachers program. This not only teaches IGERT trainees project management skills, but also how to communicate their research to general audiences.

This year, the IGERT trainees helped our Tech-Link (robotics camp for kids with disabilities) team advance to the regional competition, a challenging feat that had not occurred in over 5 years. This year’s challenge was particularly interesting and fitting for our IGERT’s focus of rehabilitation engineering research. This year’s challenged focused on “Senior Solutions,” that improved the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged, and connected in their communities. IGERT fellows’ research related to rehabilitation robotics, cognitive assistive technologies, and prosthetics all contribute to the goal of allowing the less-abled to live more independently. Therefore, their research was highlighted many times throughout the 4-month camp to demonstrate real-life “senior solutions” to the students.

Address Goals

This activity promotes cultivating a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce. Our team is the only group in the region that specifically focuses on recruiting students with disabilities. We are inclusive of all students, however, to demonstrate to those with and without disabilities that students of all abilities can be successful in STEM. This program fosters research that will advance the frontiers of knowledge, specifically in terms of understanding the barriers and facilitators to STEM learning for students with disabilities, across critical transition junctures, in particular, from the middle to high school levels. This program also advances understanding of the role that mentors play in developing STEM skills and self-efficacy.