Research Offers Insights from the Social Sciences
08/24/2012By Sandra Seitz
Three new social science research initiatives will provide insights on the mental health of youth in prison, the abilities of youth on the autism spectrum and other key issues of our society. The research and scholarship are funded by Joseph P. Healey grants, awarded by the UMass President’s Office and UMass Lowell’s Vice Provost for Research.
“Steampunkinetics: Building Art into Science” is an art and technology program for adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Directed by Psychology Asst. Prof. Ashleigh Hillier, who conducts research and runs a number of programs for ASD youth, the program includes collaboration with working artists: Bruce Rosenbaum, head of ModVic, a steampunk design company; and Mauricio Cordero, executive director of Mill No. 5 in Lowell.
Steampunk is an artistic movement that melds elements of Victorian-era history, particularly steam power, with modern technology and fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature futuristic ideas as Victorians might have envisioned them.
“Steampunk is a good fit for those with ASD, whose skills often include phenomenal attention to detail, highly creative and divergent thinking and an emphasis on mechanics,” says Hillier. Participants will design and create kinetic art objects, incorporating technology and engineering, working in small groups led by undergraduate and graduate students.