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Applications of Neuroimaging in Engineering


Engineering education researchers are well poised to partner with cognitive neuroscientists, and others, to consider how neuroimaging can support pressing research needs. For example, neuroimaging can help measure how educational experiences are driving changes in the brain, and contribute to custom experiences for different learners. I will provide an overview of neuroimaging basics and offer a live demonstration using one technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The purpose of the live demonstration is to illustrate both the benefits and challenges of incorporating this nascent technology into existing research protocols. I will also discuss several on-going projects using fNIRS related to problem solving in engineering, systems thinking among engineering students, and the observed cognitive differences in creativity among freshman and senior engineering students. The results from these projects provide both supporting and contradicting evidence of previous findings in engineering education research.


Biography: Tripp Shealy is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and principal faculty member in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Previously, Dr. Shealy worked as a consultant for the construction industry reviewing building codes, assisting engineering firms with sustainability assessments, and as a project engineer building water treatment facilities. He received his doctorate from Clemson University. His research focus is on engineering for sustainability, which includes engineering education for sustainability. At the micro-level, Dr. Shealy measures engineering design cognition, and creative problem solving, using methods from neuroscience. At the macro-level, Dr. Shealy is currently conducting a national survey to assess factors in engineering students’ experiences during their undergraduate program that predict their beliefs and agency to address issues related to sustainability in their careers. Ultimately, Dr. Shealy’s goal is to develop research-based curriculum focused on developing students’ creative problem-solving ability and that supports engineering agency to address global societal challenges for sustainability.