I conduct research to build a world in which future engineers can use a variety of tools, particularly prototyping, sketching and mixed reality tools, to ease the engineering design process. I hope this world will be inclusive of women and other minorities, aided by highly collaborative mixed reality environments and supportive of multi-disciplinary engineering design.  I draw on a variety of disciplines in my work, including engineering, design, human computer interaction and psychology.

Increasing Creativity beyond the classroom

I am interested in how sketching and prototyping can improve creativity and aid in the promotion of highly novel ideas. In the typical design process, sketching is completed first.  The designer is pushed to generate as many ideas as possible.  In the prototypes that follow, individuals can explore their best ideas more deeply.  Several studies have noted the value of both sketching and building of preliminary prototypes in the early stage of the design process.  Few have examined the interplay of these two early activities.  As a result, the differences in the design exploration value of a sketch and a simple, preliminary prototype may not always be clear.  Furthermore, a lot of inexperienced students skip over the sketching and ideation phase too quickly or end up in an infinite loop of ideation and prototyping. Too often, creativity suffers and less novel ideas are chosen. As we form a stronger understanding of these problems, it could significantly impact how we teach the early design process to students.  Which could enable students, regardless of background, to more effectively manage their design cycle, increase creativity and improve decision making. 

Virtual Reality for Design

Virtual Reality (VR) is a unique set of technologies that supports human-centered design interaction and can be applied to a variety of engineering problems. Since the completion of my PhD, which grounded my VR work, I have wondered how VR could be used to improve interaction with flexible and tangible artifact-based prototyping methods for engineering design and education. I believe there are vast opportunities to improve design learning, expand evaluation criteria, and advance novices design skills through use of innovative devices that connect prototyping with (digital) source data.

The question I hope to answer is if a mixed (physical/visual) reality system would be able to increase design cognition and reduce the number of iterations of a design. Such a mixed interactive system could transform rapid prototyping models into interactive physical models without the need for new external devices.  This could close the loop between digital part to physical part to digital part. The immediate impact of such a mixed reality system could be a rapid evaluation on screen of proposed physical changes. This new way of working could lead to less iteration in redesign or model editing of the actual physical prototypes and could provide a similar understanding of a virtual artifact without the vast supply of equipment in order to make a part before evaluating it.

Assessment Tools for Engineering Education