There are many engineering concepts that, to an expert eye, are clearly related to each other but seem quite disconnected to novices and students. The Engineering Genome project builds on previous NSF work and is developing learner-centered tools for linking these engineering concepts, thus enabling students to better recognize the interrelationships of the concepts. It is expected that by enabling students to recognize these relationships, students will more quickly develop expert-like behavior and understanding. The understanding of these relationships also serves to assist students as they search for learning materials related to a subject they are studying.

Analogous to Pandora, the internet radio search application that relates and finds similar music using a music genome, the Engineering Genome project will implement a search method for finding related engineering concepts using the Engineering Genome. The project is developing the Engineering Genome for a subset of engineering topics and is assessing the efficacy of the genome for enhancing student learning.

Project Report

continues to explore the use of structured ways of representing knowledge in engineering for training undergraduate engineers. The premise of the research focuses on both the knowledge itself and the relationships among different pieces of knowledge--these are things that experts know because of their training and experience in the field. But novices (that is, students) do not yet have the training or experience to fully grasp the complex relationships among different pieces of engineering knowledge. The Engineering Genome Project was developed to help novices "connect the dots" by showing them the architecture of the knowledge, and providing them with specific, concrete examples applying that knowledge. The Genome consists of a back-end database housing multimedia learning objects--mostly instructional videos--that are categorized according to the knowledge ontology. The ontology is a description of the knowledge and relationships, and so far we have focused on the area of engineering mechanics, a sub-field in mechanical engineering that forms the foundational knowledge for students to study things like structure and machines. Through this work, we have developed the organization of engineering mechanics knowledge, and populated it with a large number of instrucitonal videos for students to access. Our study of how students use the videos to support their learning has already revealed differences across student populations in terms of how they engage with the videos, how many they use, how long they use them, and so forth. As such, the engineering education community is now better informed about issues related to mulltimedia use for learning. More broadly, we are continuing to develop a tool that gives students direct access to a large library of learning resources to support their learning. We are currently continuing with usabiltiy testing, but our work with students and their use of multimedia resources for learning has already yielded improved understanding of how to create and distribute multimedia materials for undergraduate engineers.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Amy Chan Hilton
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University of Virginia
United States
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