ICS Co-hire Timothy Brick and Colleagues Awarded a National Robotics Initiative Grant
Conrad Tucker, assistant professor of engineering design and industrial engineering, and Timothy Brick, assistant professor of human development and family studies, were awarded a National Robotics Initiative Grant of $342,574 from the National Science Foundation. Tucker and Brick are co-principal investigators on the three-year project titled, “Observation, Inference and Intervention: An Adaptive Co-robot System that Provides Individually Customized Performance Feedback Based on Students’ Affective States.” “This research will lead to a better understanding of how students interact and function with co-robots during potentially stressful activities,” said Tucker. Co-robots are robots that work side-by-side with humans, assisting them with tasks and adapting to their needs. The two-way exchange of knowledge between students and co-robots creates a relationship in which each party learns from the other in service of a common goal. The purpose of this research by Tucker and Brick is to test the hypothesis that the repetitious cycle of observation, inference and intervention by co-robot systems enhances and improves students’ moods and their performance of tasks in an engineering lab setting. “Affective states, such as frustration and engagement, play a constant role when students complete everyday tasks,” said Brick. “So a student who is overly stressed or distracted one day may make more mistakes than they would any other day. A co-robot system that is cognizant of students’ affective states can intervene when a student’s state-of-mind isn’t positive to prevent those errors from occurring.” In order to test their hypothesis, the researchers will: acquire facial, auditory and body gesture data from students using the integrated visual, audio and depth sensory system of the co-robot; make statistical inferences of students’ affective states, based on machine learning classification of facial and body language data; use the visual feedback display of the co-robot systems to present students with visual instructions and commentary intended to enhance their affective state and improve their performance on laboratory tasks; and assess the impact of the co-robots’ ability to improve students’ affective states and enhance students’ performance on laboratory tasks over repeated iterations of learning and testing. “There is currently little scientific knowledge that exists in terms of how positive or negative affective experiences during engineering-related tasks impact students’ interest in STEM-related majors and careers,” said Tucker. “The co-robot systems proposed in this work will help close this knowledge gap by uncovering the correlations that exists between students’ affect and task performance.” Tucker and Brick hope that the results of their work will provide a template for skill-based instruction on topics well beyond engineering, such as teaching a student how to play a musical instrument or demonstrating the technical skills necessary to play sports. In many cases, personality mismatches between instructor and student can lead to frustration, learning difficulties and eventually the student dropping out of the activity. “Co-robot learning systems will be able to mitigate these challenges by opening the door to both real-time and scalable feedback systems that adapt to the individual needs of students while optimizing the time each student needs with the instructor in order to master the skill being taught,” said Tucker. Story reposted from http://news.psu.edu/story/370235/2015/09/16/research/nsf-grant-allows-researchers-explore-use-co-robots-teaching.
Ping Li and colleagues received the NCS-FO grant from the NSF White House BRAIN Initiative
Understanding how different levels of students comprehend science texts is the focus of a nearly $1 million grant awarded to an interdisciplinary team of Penn State psychology and education researchers by the National Science Foundation. The grant is one of 16 awarded across the country as part of the NSF's Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems program as well as NSF's support for the White House BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). "Our research hopes to capture cognitive and brain representations and states during and after the reading of science texts, in both native English speakers and immigrant students for whom English is the second language," said Ping Li, principal investigator for the project and professor of psychology, linguistics and information sciences and technology. "Such an approach to individual differences in learning -- good readers vs. poor readers -- will have significant implications for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and education in general." Li and colleagues will combine functional magnetic resonance imaging, computational modeling, and brain network analyses to understand the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying reading comprehension in middle-school children, college students, and second language speakers. Working with Li are Roy B. Clariana, professor of education in the learning, design and technology program, and Bonnie Meyer, professor of educational psychology. Story reposted from http://news.psu.edu/story/365527/2015/08/13/research/reading-comprehension-focus-nsf-grant. For more on the NSF award and Ping Li's research, see: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1533625&HistoricalAwards=false https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=135926&org=NSF&from=news
President Obama Establishes National Strategic Computing Initiative
On July 29th, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) to ensure the United States continues leading in this field over the coming decades. This coordinated research, development, and deployment strategy will draw on the strengths of departments and agencies to move the Federal government into a position that sharpens, develops, and streamlines a wide range of new 21st century applications. It is designed to advance core technologies to solve difficult computational problems and foster increased use of the new capabilities in the public and private sectors. See the full announcement at https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/07/29/advancing-us-leadership-high-performance-computing. See the NSCI Fact Sheet at https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/nsci_fact_sheet.pdf. The executive order is available in full at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/29/executive-order-creating-national-strategic-computing-initiative.
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