According to statewide reports, some Texas K-12 schools have struggled to offer a disability curriculum during the coronavirus pandemic. UTSA’s additional support helps meet this immediate need in the community and region.
“We want to make sure parents know there are great opportunities. I want to offer the program this summer to give the children a chance to learn about IT, to know the possibility of a career in IT, ”Wang added.
At ExploreSTEM @ UTSA, students will benefit from hands-on programming and machine learning experience to build self-driving and lane-sensing vehicles. Students will learn basic computer programming concepts, programming skills, computer vision, and data science. Through these activities, students gain insight into what it is like to work in the STEM fields of software engineering and data science.
In addition, each day a guest speaker working in STEM fields will be invited to interact with students to discuss their STEM-related careers and individual career paths. The program will end with online testing of their AI models on dash camera videos.
“Promoting STEM careers to disabled high school students creates beneficial opportunities for everyone involved,” said Ewoldt, who will also provide strategy training to tutors. “Students win challenges and generate excitement for the many different careers that make up STEM. STEM fields benefit because the more diverse the workforce and bringing multiple perspectives into a conversation, the more innovative the solutions that are found will be.
Last year, a blind student with some coding experience successfully programmed AI for autonomous lane detection. The ExploreSTEM @ UTSA teaching and learning experience revealed flaws that could only be encountered by completely blind people when using screen reader assistive technology as a computer programmer. The revelation of these flaws has led UTSA researchers to innovative possibilities that are currently being explored for research and development.
“This is a great example of how a computer scientist discovered a user interface deficiency or a problematic barrier that might not have been exposed otherwise,” Ewoldt explained. “It’s also a great example of how UTSA supports our local community and the next generation of cyberscientists. “
The UTSA program is a collaboration with the Texas Workforce Commission, which helps orient students. The objective this summer is to extend the number of registrations to around 30 participants from middle and high schools.