Randall Davies

“A few years ago, there’s no way we could have undertaken a project like this,” says Randall Davies of the IP&T Department, referring to a new research initiative on which he is collaborating with professors in the College of Engineering and Technology.  Davies and fellow project investigators Alan Parkinson, C. Greg Jensen, and Spencer Magleby, all of the engineering college, were awarded a $175,000 grant by the National Science Foundation in September for their project, titled “Development of a Scalable and Sustainable Infrastructure for Global, Collaborative Engineering Design Education.”

Davies and his associates aim to develop a widely applicable approach to learning that will enable students to acquire global competencies—abilities to work effectively in a technologically and culturally diverse global environment.  Cultural awareness is also increasingly important in the workplace of the 21st Century, as globalization continues to expand and transform communication technology.

The project will be technology-driven, fully utilizing several relevant and available Web tools like Skype and video conferencing.  Tools such as these will be a vital component of the success of the research project.  They facilitate instant interaction between students despite thousands of miles of separation, and they allow researchers to gauge progress of the project as they observe students in a university classroom working together with international engineering teams from across the globe.

“Scalability is key with this project,” says Davies.  Scalability refers to the range of student accessibility to project tools.  The more students that can be reached for less money, the better.  “This is why the project is so important,” he continues.  “We want to prove that these techniques are worthwhile, cost-effective, and efficient in hopes of future implication.”

The two-year project will run primarily as a pilot program.  Davies and his team hope their research will provide a solid foundation for similar projects in the future.  The project is also seen as a first step towards the development of a possible network of U.S. and international research teams, which will enable even more students to acquire and practice global engineering skills.

11 January 2010