In September 2019, the National Science Foundation’s Future of Work program awarded a 2.5 million dollar grant to fund PoNG and our fellow researchers for an ambitious and worthy project– Neurodiversity in Tech: Using Interactive Decision Theory and Augmented Reality to Enable Employment for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This research is split into two facets:

  1. Hold a skill-building internship model to expand access to jobs in the technology sector for adults on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  2. Develop training technology along with many collaborators from UCSD.

In addition to the PoNG Center Summer Internship Program, the PoNG Center is responsible for creating technology-based solutions:

Workplace Communications
A Unity-based video game for teaching best practices in workplace communication methods reflected from the experience of frequent challenges in the internship program.

A machine learning tool designed to filter emails and improve communication by suggesting edits or providing feedback to ensure the communication is clear, concise, and sufficient based on information available in an email chain.

Collaborative Projects

PoNG Center has partnered up with various researchers at UCSD to form an interdisciplinary team for the Neurodiversity in Tech program. These training and evaluation technologies, combined with the internship program itself, aim to prepare a diverse group of students and interns to learn skills relevant to technical employment.

Internship EvaluationsJosh Shapiro, Georgia Kovacs, & Monica Guo, Center for Applied Research and Evaluation
Evaluation of the effectiveness of the PoNG Summer Internship by examining feedback, assessments, and longitudinal impacts, such as work attainment and retention.

Augmented Reality (AR) Coaching SystemPamela Cosman & Saygin Artiran, Electrical, and Computer Engineering
AR coaching system in which a virtual coach assesses a set of social interaction behaviors such as head nodding, backchannels (e.g. mhm or yeah), and other conversational engagement cues to provide feedback to the users about how their level of conversational engagement might be perceived by others.

Smart Virtual Coaching and Guidance Sujit Dey & Onur Tepencelik, MSDLab
LiDAR sensor and machine learning-based smart system that monitors a workspace environment and provides virtual guidance for maintaining appropriate head & body orientation and interpersonal distance.

Lunch & Learn Social Skills Workshop— Shana Cohen & Jessica Miguel, F.A.S.E. Research Lab
Professional and social skills workshops on topics related to employment and challenging social situations in the workplace for neurodiverse adult participants looking to be employed in the tech field.

Ethics and Social ImpactCraig Callender & Jada Wiggleton-Little, Dept of Philosophy and Institute for Practical Ethics
Observation and study of ethical issues surrounding methods of providing employment opportunities for the neurodiverse community.