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Keep up to date with all things ACE!


July 23, 2020 – Autism Tree Project Foundation Teen Time is Back!

We’re excited to be back working with Autism Tree Project Foundation! ACE has set two new dates for Teen Time workshops—August 18th & September 1st. Teen Time is a great space for teens to socialize, learn, and teach one another. In August, we’ll make our own virtual reality viewer and share ways we can use it to learn new skills, explore new subjects in school, and help us be more relaxed.  In September, teens will learn how to create their own virtual experience and view it in their homemade headset!

June 22 – Partnering with High Tech High School Chula Vista

Partnering with High Tech High Chula Vista

IMI ACE partnered with High Tech High’s 12th grade engineering class to create ‘Worlds of Wellness’—virtual reality-based serious games and activities that teach daily life and wellness skills to autistic individuals. This program is unique in that it offers high school students an opportunity to create real world solutions for IMI ACE; in this case, the tools and resources ACE applies in various research and education initiatives. This includes virtual experiences that teach skills like following, turn taking, and self-dressing for kids and adolescents, as well as mindfulness, relaxed breathing, and social emotional learning. 

Due to COVID-19, all in-person instruction at HTH was suspended in March and students were left without the resources to finalize and share their amazing creations. Check out the pictures below for a snapshot of their works in progress:

Fortunately, ACE is working with the HTH 12th grade engineering class again in the 2020-2021 school year! We’re excited to work with these students and help them realize their own potential for impact while learning skills and concepts in 3D development and computer programming. 

April 21st – ATPF Teen Time Online – Greek Mythology

On Tuesday, April 21st IMI ACE hosted the second Teen Time Online workshop in collaboration with Autism Tree Project Foundation (ATPF). With developments surrounding COVID-19, ACE is actively searching for innovative ways to serve autistic students and young adults. Teen Time Online is a social videoconference where teens with autism can share their interests, socialize and learn something new. This week, ATPF teen, Lizzy, presented on Greek and Roman Mythology. Workshop participants discussed the role of mythology in different cultures and shared various virtual learning resources. ACE looks forward to the next Teen Time event! 

April 17th – Technology and the Future of Clinical Psychology

ACE Director, Ian Miller sat down for a virtual interview with Dr. Richard Gilbert to discuss technology and the future of clinical psychology on “Wednesday Night with a Master Therapist”. Dr. Gilbert is a Professor of Psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California and the Director of The P.R.O.S.E. (Psychological Research on Synthetic Environments) Project, a research lab that investigates the personal and cultural impact of leading-edge digital technologies such as Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. The interview, part of Dr. Gilbert’s Clinical Psychology course at LMU covered topics like the impact of mental health apps, AI-driven therapist chat bots, and 3D technologies of Virtual and Augmented Reality on mental health service. Ian also shared new developments and future directions of ACE research objectives using Virtual Reality, biosensors, and physiologically informed environments. Watch the 1-hour interview on YouTube!

April 12th, 2020 – VR-ATT Now Available in Spanish!

Our virtual reality air travel training (VR-ATT) program is now offered in Spanish! Download our resource from the Arc of the United States here. It is important to us that our tools and resources be accessible by wide swaths of the population in San Diego and beyond. So, we’re working hard to translate other training environments into Spanish and searching for new opportunities to make an impact in our diverse San Diego community. 

April 6th, 2020 – Teen Time Online. Responding to COVID-19.

Developments surrounding COVID-19 have halted all in-person events and gatherings. This includes our widely popular STEM Pathways / Teen Time series held in cooperation with Autism Tree Project Foundation. In response, ACE and ATPF are happy to announce that Teen Time will be held online until it is safe to gather again. We are excited for this new opportunity to learn and engage our community in the best ways possible. On Sunday, April 5th ACE hosted the first ever Teen Time online event and discussed health and hygiene during the pandemic, stress and anxiety coping strategies, and spent time in a social virtual reality platform called RecRoom. 

Our next event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 21st at 11:00am Pacific Standard Time. Teen Time participant, Lizzy Sweeten will present a topic of her interest—Greek mythology! It is our intention to have a new participant share a topic of interest each event. Given the focus on STEM education at ACE, each of these events applies different uses of technology and encourages students to engage with STEM disciplines of their interest. Ultimately, Teen Time is designed to highlight the voices and interests of our participants. If you are interested in participating, please contact rebeccab@autismtreeproject.org!

February 27th, 2020 – ACE and Autism Tree Project Foundation set the table for a momentous 2020.

ACE recently participated in Autism Tree Project Foundation’s 12th annual Program Managers meeting, sharing 2019 progress and goals for 2020 of our STEM Pathways initiative. STEM Pathways, which is just one of over 30 free programs offered in cooperation with ATPF, helps increase autistic students’ interest and self-efficacy in STEM. The meeting, held at The Alexandria in Torrey Pines, highlighted the impact that these programs have on children they serve and the community as a whole. From early intervention screenings, to music therapy and beach days ATPF has served tens of thousands of autistic individuals and families since its inception. IMI ACE is excited to continue holding STEM Pathways and related workshops at ATPF and make 2020 a big year of change!

February 24th, 2020 – The inaugural STEM Pathways at Autism Tree Project Foundation

Yesterday, IMI ACE held the inaugural STEM Pathways workshop in collaboration with Autism Tree Project Foundation and the University of San Diego’s STEM Outreach Club. STEM Pathways is a new workshop series at ACE where we engage K-12 students with autism with various science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, hoping to increase their interest and self-efficacy in STEM and pursue educational pathways related to their interests. 

The topic of this past Sunday’s workshop was Biology. So, college students from the University of San Diego’s STEM Outreach Club, and their advising professor, Dr. Laura Rivard, delivered a cow eyeball dissection activity. USD students gained great experience designing and delivering and educational activity, while participants in the workshop got to learn about the structures and functions of the eye. In groups of two, participants got to work with their peers to dissect the eyeball, while being guided by a USD student. 

We all overcame the ‘ick-factor’ fairly quickly and jumped right into the activity. USD students, ATPF volunteers, IMI volunteers and the participants themselves had a tremendous time interacting and learning from one another!

February 11th, 2020 – Download our free air travel resources from the Arc of the United States!

Are you in need of air travel preparation resources? IMI ACE’s virtual reality-based air travel training module is now available for download from the Arc of the United States’ resource page. The Arc of the U.S. hosts Wings for Autism, a program designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with an autism spectrum disorder experience when traveling by air. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding a plane. Since these events are only offered once per year in select cities, our VR-based air travel preparation is a tremendous resource for families who need to practice from the convenience of their home. 

You can also read publications analyzing the feasibility and efficacy of this training module here. We are very excited to partner with Wings for Autism and the Arc of the United States to share this important resource with families in need. We hope that it can alleviate some of the stress associated with air travel and help more families enjoy their vacations and family trips.

January 30th, 2020 – Publication Announcement!

Our most recent research is featured in the Virtual Reality and Autism Special Issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking journal! Read the press release here, and go check out our articles:

  1. Virtual Reality Air Travel Training with Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Preliminary Report
  2. Assessment and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders with Virtual Reality: A Comprehensive Research Chart.

November 20th, 2019 – Grant Award Announcement

For the second year in a row (!) IMI ACE was awarded funding from the Arc Tank 3.0 competition. This competition was created to positively disrupt conventional methods of providing services to people with autism. Over 100 applications were submitted, and only 7 were selected to compete in the Arc Tank 3.0 event held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, MA. With all sorts of great, disruptive ideas, participants pitched their programs and products to a panel of judges including entrepreneurs, journalists, government officials, Harvard professors, and parents of children on the autism spectrum. The winning proposals received awards from the Changing Lives Fund established through a $1 million donation from Steven P. Rosenthal, founder of West Shore, LLC.

ACE Director, Ian Miller shared our newest vision for an inclusive and diverse workforce, called Autism Works. Awarded $45,000, these funds will help IMI ACE create a technical training curriculum that teaches students on the autism spectrum computer programming and virtual reality development skills that culminates in industry level certification and job placement. Funds will also support STEM education workshops, where students on the autism spectrum can participate in fun, informal hands-on activities that increase their interest and self-efficacy in STEM. Ultimately, these workshops are intended to increase autistic individuals’ participation in STEM in high school, college, or in the workforce. 

“The Arc Tank has now awarded $650,000 to proposals that promise to break down barriers for people with disabilities who are too often marginalized, not included as equal participants in everyday life, and prevented from taking advantage of opportunities,” said Jo Ann Simons, CEO of Northeast Arc. “Our four new Arc Tank winners will be soon on their way to disrupting the status quo and making significant changes for the better for people with intellectual disabilities and autism.” 

We cannot thank the Northeast Arc, Doug Flutie Foundation and the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation enough for all of their hard work and commitment to making this the best Arc Tank to date!

You can watch a synopsis video here.

October 13th, 2019 – The Versatilist Podcast

Director of ACE, Ian Miller, sat down with Dr. Patrick O’Shea, Associate Professor of Instructional Technology at Appalachian State University, to discuss our virtual reality research. The Versatilist is a weekly podcast published by the Immersive Learning Network. Listen to it for free, here!

October 7th, 2019 – Blue Horizons: Helping autistic individual and their families simplify the air travel process.

There is little more rewarding than working with the families we serve. On October Sunday, October 6th IMI’s Autism Center of Excellence shared its virtual reality air travel training tools at JetBlue’s Blue Horizons event at the San Diego International Airport. Organized by the Autism Tree Project, Transportation Security Administration, San Diego Airport Authority and JetBlue community ambassadors, this event helps autistic individuals and their families practice safe air travel by going through the airport check in system, security lines and boarding an airplane.

Long lines, unexpected schedule changes, and crowded airports can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety in the already stressful air travel process. While events like Blue Horizons offer a tremendous practice opportunity for families in need, their availability is limited. IMI ACE utilizes VR to deliver accessible, effective trainings anytime, anywhere. We showcased a VR training module that goes through similar air travel steps (check in, security, boarding an airplane), and shared a guided relaxation module. Over 150 families attended the event, stopping by our booth to try out the VR experiences and learn more about participating in our research trials. Families were sent home with our air travel training module and guided relaxation so they can use them to prepare for their next air travel day. For more information on ACE air travel research, go to our research page.

September 24th, 2019 – Wrapping up Workshops with Autism Tree Project Foundation.

We just wrapped up our final Virtual Reality Teen Time workshop in collaboration with the Autism Tree Project Foundation! The program is designed for teens and young adults with autism who are able to independently participate in organized social outings throughout the San Diego community. IMI showcased many of its VR applications for education, training, and healthcare throughout these 5 events. Participants were able to learn relaxation breathing techniques, play fun VR games, engage with various subject matters in VR, like astronomy and oceanography, and interact with their peers. IMI ACE is grateful for Autism Tree Project Foundation’s support and looks forward to hosting more events in the future!

June 27th, 2019 – Sharing Research at our Annual Conference

We just returned from CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy & Social Networking Conference (CYPSY24) at Norfolk State University. Jointly organized by Norfolk State University’s Psychology Department and in collaboration with the Interactive Media Institute, this conference is an international networking and sharing platform for researchers, clinicians, policymakers and funding agents to share and discuss advancements in the growing disciplines of CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy, and Social Networking.

ACE Director, Ian Miller shared the most recent results of a research trial utilizing virtual reality to help children and adolescents prepare for the air travel process. To read the proceedings of CYPSY24, click here: http://www.arctt.info

We’re hard at work planning our landmark 25th anniversary conference jointly organized by IMI and the Istituto Auxologico Italiano. For more information on attending CYPSY25, follow this link.