Offering Individualized

Educational Programs For K-12 Students


by Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen  



AUTISM EDUCATION – The link between science, technology, engineering and math is identifying problems and creating solutions. 

That’s what the Autism Academy for Education and Development did in preparation for the 2019 Science Fair STEM Night.  Tempe campus teachers Darnell Cherry, Ronald Burd and Elizabeth Ulrich identified the problem.  The team of teachers went back to the chalkboard to evaluate where students stood in an evolving STEM world.  

America is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of innovation –ranking poorly against global classmates in STEM subjects. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranked the nation’s students 25th in math and 17tin science out of 31 countries.  

According to the National Math and Science Initiative, only about 18-percent of high school seniors perform at or above proficiency in science subjects. In response to these statistics, AAED Tempe campus teachers facilitated a recent Science Fair STEM Night.  

Students were challenged to come up with a problem, create a solution, and then prepare a STEM project. Students designed stomp rockets, blow-straw airplanes, and other hands-on projects. Cherry’s class took on a colossal challenge – examining pros and cons of electrical powered vehicles.  

“Even though battery and electrical powered vehicles are better than gas, there are still problems with these vehicles,” Cherry explained.  

Students were able to identify the expensive costs associated with electrical automobiles and child labor used to mine for these lithium supported batteries.  They also evaluated the pros of how the same vehicles help the environment by cutting down green house gases.  

“Fourteen students participated with research,” Cherry said. “Afterward, 4 students built an electrical vehicle.” 

During the Science Fair STEM Nightin packed gymnasium, students displayed their tri-fold presentations, poster boards, and innovative projects. Cherry’s students won the 1st place blue ribbon bragging rights amongst AAED Tempe middle school classmates.  

“I was really just the facilitator,” he said. “I gave them the platform and they ran with it.” 

One supporter was so impressed and awe-inspired that tears fell. 

“These kids are smart,” Cherry said. “We have to demand excellence, and then they’ll surprise you – they will blow your mind.” 

After much trial, students felt pride; after much error, they felt confidence. After teaching for almost 2 decades, the 1st year AAED teacher had this to say.  

I’ve never been at a place like this,” Cherry said. The way they keep students first and support the staff, I couldn’t be happier – this place is amazing.” 

Autism Academy for Education and Development continues forging new paths, including educational STEM advancement in the autism community.