Personal Statement

I am a physicist with a passion to explore how research tools and methods developed and used by scientists and engineers can be harnessed as effective learning tools to meet pressing challenges in science, engineering, and technical education to solve critical social problems. As research and education share the same goal of understanding how the world works and finding solutions to make a better world, there is no reason that a research tool cannot be used to educate people. For example, infrared imaging is a compelling demonstration of how an advanced technology developed by the industry to solve engineering problems can be harnessed as an effective learning technology to solve educational problems; Computational physics provides digital representations of natural phenomena by solving their governing equations numerically. Computational science can also be used to build the artificial intelligence for analyzing fine-grained student data streams to identify learning patterns, diagnose learning bottlenecks, and respond to individual needs.

An interactive computational fluid dynamics simulation using Energy2D (ten research papers that used Energy2D to simulate natural phenomena and engineering systems have been published):


JUMP Innovation Challenge for Smartphone Applications for Energy Efficiency

(October 5, 2016) The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and CLEAResult announced the grand prize winner in the JUMP Smartphone Call for Innovation during their Energy Forum in Austin, Texas, which was attended by more than 200 utility executives and industry representatives. The winner was our SmartIR -- a smartphone app to create an infrared street view similar to the Google Street View but in infrared light.

Thermal Vision is Becoming Large-Scale

(August 1, 2015) The National Science Foundation has awarded us $1.2 million to explore opportunities to integrate education and industry to foster growth of clean energy business. One of the highlights of the project is that affordable IR cameras will empower students to discover thermodynamics in action in school and at home, potentially creating an additional "workforce" for solving energy problems (see this poster). In the past few years, the price of IR cameras has dropped below $200, removing the last barrier of this technology to large-scale classroom use. My Infrared Tube is dedicated to IR imaging experiments for science education. This website publishes the experiments I have designed to visualize natural phenomena that are otherwise unseen.

SmartCAD: An Intelligent Learning Environment for Engineering Design

(June 4, 2015) The National Science Foundation has awarded us $3 million to conduct research and development on SmartCAD, an intelligent learning system that supports students' engineering design based on automatic feedback generated using computational analysis of their actions and artifacts. The SmartCAD capabilities will be developed for Energy3D—one of the most sophisticated simulation tools for solar energy modeling, simulation, and design. Fore more information, check out my article on visual process analytics and my poster.

Putting Learning under a "Big Data Microscope"

(October 1, 2013) The National Science Foundation has awarded us $1.5 million to advance educational research on engineering design using computational process analytics based on big data. This study will probably be the largest-scale study on engineering design in the history of engineering education -- Approximately 3,000 students will be involved in 6-8 hours of intense design projects using our Energy3D software, producing about 60 GB of process data that will become the "gold mine" of educational research. Fore more information, check out my presentation to NSF or my article on learning visualization.

Keynote Address at InfraMation 2012

(November 6, 2012) I was invited by FLIR Systems to deliver a 45-minutes keynote speech at the Opening Plenary of InfraMation, the world's largest conference on infrared imaging. I presented several original scientific discoveries based on IR imaging, proposed the concept of educational imaging, and suggested business strategies for the education market. The presentation was very well received. I was glad to see that my contributions to applied IR imaging had been recognized by the industry.

From Virtual to Real

(April 28, 2012) Energy3D, featured at 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival, is our signature software tool for designing and making scale-model buildings. A cool feature of the program is that students can print out their computer models, cut the pieces out, and then assemble them into physical models. In the future, we hope to integrate this tool with digital fabricators that use additive manufacuring technologies to accelerate the conversion.