IDEEAS Lab Improving Decisions in Engineering Education Agents and Systems

Research Page

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The Improving Decisions in Engineering Education Agents and Systems (IDEEAS) Lab is a research lab run by Dr. Andrew Katz in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Our work is driven by one overarching question: How can we use data to support decisions from the individual level up through the organizational level in order to achieve better societal outcomes through engineering education?

Three particular, current areas of interest in the lab are: environmental sustainability (i.e., how students learn and make decisions that affect the environment), automated technologies (i.e., how educators can use digital technologies as well as how engineers make design decisions for automated technologies that affect communities), and human health (i.e., how we can make sure education systems promote a holistic student formation that foster mental and physical health, minimizing the stereotypical grind associated with pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree).

Regardless of the problem, we are interested in looking at phenomena from the perspectives of students, faculty members, administrators, industry, and broader communities impacted by decisions that engineers and engineering educators make. To that end, we use multi-modal data - anything from interviews to surveys to secondary data from websites and administrative records to large-scale texts collected from the internet - from inside and outside of the classroom to understand and improve those decisions made throughout engineering education systems.

If you are interested in this work, let us know! We are always looking for collaborators who are equally excited about opportunities to make a difference.

Selected Projects

Below are a series of topics that our lab studies. As a new lab, we have a lot of stuff in the metaphorical oven, but everything is still a little half baked. If you are interested in knowing more about our work in any of these areas, please contact us (i.e., email Dr. Katz)!

Decision Making

Ethical Decision Making: Mapping the landscape of engineering ethics education

Motivating Question:

  • What does the landscape of engineering ethics education in US undergraduate engineering programs look like?

Engineering, Decision, and Climate Change

Motivating Questions:

  • What do engineering students believe about climate change?

  • What kinds of factors are associated with students wanting to address issues of environmental sustainability in their careers?

  • What can engineering educators do to help students understand the effects of their work on the environment?

Reasoning and Decision Making Under Uncertainty

Motivating Question:

  • How do engineers and engineering students account for non-deterministic mechanisms and incorporate incomplete information into their design decisions?

Applications of Technology in Engineering Education

Machine Learning in Engineering Education

Motivating Question:

  • How can we utilize supervised and unsupervised ML paradigms to support learning and instruction in engineering education?

  • How can we use RL agents to make sequential decisions to support student learning inside and outside of formal classroom experiences?

Information, Communication, and Language in Engineering

NLP in engineering education teaching and research applications

Motivating Question:

  • How can researchers apply developments from the past decade for understanding student learning, faculty decision-making, and system-wide adaptations over time?

More details about this and related projects coming soon.

Instructors’ Use of Metaphors and Analogies

Motivating Question:

  • How instructors in STEM classrooms use figurative language to introduce and discuss concrete and abstracts concepts?

Engineering and Education Systems

Systems thinking in engineering students

Motivating Question:

  • How can we promote more holistic systems thinking in engineering students?

  • In particular, are there certain pedagogical or extracurricular activities that help students develop their abilities to think in terms of systems?

Political Economy of Engineering Education

Motivating Question:

  • How do political and economic factors shape decisions around resource allocation (e.g., space, time, money, energy) within engineering institutions and organizations?


see Publication List