NAO’s Role in Workplace Inclusion for People on the Autism Spectrum

P1040366.JPG

The Dandelion Program

DXC is a global IT company continually looking to identify and employ talented people. Early on they realised many talented individuals, especially those on the Autism Spectrum, struggled to get through their mainstream recruitment processes. To rectify this, they developed the Dandelion Program, which allows candidates on the Autism Spectrum to showcase their skills and strengths by programming a NAO robot from The Brainary.

Happy to advise that over the last four years, we have employed some very talented people who continue to be employed by DXC.
— Felicia Vozzo, Dandelion Program Co-ordinator

The Dandelion Program is a sustainable three-year program, which focusses on building the careers and skills of people on the Autism Spectrum into the following IT roles: software testing, data analytics and cyber security. The program consists of two streams – internships and employment – with Dandelion teams in four states across Australia, employing nearly 60 people who are on the Autism Spectrum.

The Dandelion Program is not just about recruiting people with autism. Their aim is to build careers for people on the spectrum and to join with other institutions to address the high rate of unemployment in the autistic community.

The Internship program provides valuable paid IT work experience to students/graduates on the spectrum – they work on a real IT robotics project, using modern software development techniques.
— Felicia Vozzo, Dandelion Program Co-ordinator

Dandelion Work Experience Program with UniSA students in Adelaide

NAO – The Ideal Robotics Platform

The Dandelion Program designers chose the NAO robot from The Brainary because of its flexible programming levels. The Choregraphe software is ideal as an introductory level then, as the candidates advance in skill, they move on to Python SDK, where candidates get to program in a real programming language.

It is difficult to find another product that has these attributes. This assists us in being able set tasks for our candidates that suits their current skill level and also to provide some growth in their learning and test their potential.
— Felicia Vozzo, Dandelion Program Co-ordinator

NAO also has many advanced features, such as speech and facial recognition, that help produce a more human-like robot to engage an audience. When candidates see NAO for the first time they become mesmerised and are quite excited to use it.

The fact that it has many advanced features also provides us with the ability to add quite a lot of depth to our projects, so we can really push the boundaries of our candidates’ ability.
— Felicia Vozzo, Dandelion Program Co-ordinator
group - yoga1.jpg

When NAO is programmed the robot is placed in a school that has children on the Autism Spectrum.

The children immediately engage with the robot. NAO assists the students with various learning exercises – academic subjects, relaxation activities/techniques, games, storytelling and helping them understand their emotions.
— Felicia Vozzo, Dandelion Program Co-ordinator

The Dandelion Program – Future Opportunities

There are some extremely talented people on the autism spectrum, who cannot get through the normal recruitment process. If you create the right environment and provide the right support, people will thrive.
— Felicia Vozzo, Dandelion Program Co-ordinator

The Dandelion team continually look for opportunities to not only grow their program but to also introduce ideas and innovation. Over the last few years, they have established critical partnerships that will propel the Dandelion Program into the forefront of workplace inclusion. Given the success of the programs, some of these clients are requesting additional teams, plus DXC are partnering with new clients to implement Dandelion teams into their organisations. 

Internships in 2018:

Brisbane, June 2018, followed by Canberra and then Melbourne.

For anyone who is interested in registering or wish to find out more about the program, please contact:

Email: dandelionprogram@dxc.com

Website: http://www.dxc.technology/au/ahp/142235-the_dandelion_program

 

The Dandelion Program Research Partnerships:

  • Cornell University
  • Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University
  • University of Haifa
  • Ono Academic College

Established Neurodiversity Hubs – DXC with Cornell University, developed and implemented a framework for the creation of a pipeline of neurodiverse talent. This is to be extended to all states and territories but has currently been started at:

  • Swinburne University, Melbourne
  • Univer sity of  Queensland, Brisbane

Formed Partnerships with:

  • Uptimize – leading provider of digital neurodiversity training tools
  • Pymetrics – artificial intelligence-based assessment tools
  • University of Haifa - assessment selection and work performance management tools based on those used in the highly successful Israeli Defence Forces autism program