Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

uCollaborator: Framework for STEM Project Collaboration among Geographically-Dispersed Student/Faculty Teams

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

uCollaborator: Framework for STEM Project Collaboration among Geographically-Dispersed Student/Faculty Teams

Article excerpt


This paper presents a framework for facilitating communication among STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) project teams that are geographically dispersed in synchronous or asynchronous online courses. The framework has been developed to: (a) improve how engineering and technology students and faculty work with collocated and geographically-dispersed teams; and (b) to connect the physical and virtual worlds. The research addresses the distributed network for: (1) conducting research in STEM-team collaboration; (2) creating an open team collaboration infrastructure; and (3) evaluating design prototypes for transferring technologies to commercial developers, application service providers, licensees or manufacturers. As a proof-of-concept and framework assessment, teams of students and faculty developed various design prototypes using "paper" modeling, geometric modeling and visual simulation methodologies

I. Introduction

This research explores a new framework for delivering online courses that connect the physical and virtual worlds both synchronously and asynchronously. As part of this effort, the authors have developed a simulated prototype system, labeled uCollaborator, to integrate the best practices from the science of teamwork with the latest in visual simulation and sensor-based technologies. The uCollaborator framework and simulated prototype platform (Figure 1) was developed to improve distributed teamwork (i.e., teamwork occurring when project-team members are geographically dispersed and often interacting at different times). The objective is to enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) collaboration and project team performance via the integration of visual simulation, networked sensors, distributed data acquisition, and voice recognition technologies ( ).

II. Industry Need and Outcome

Distributed teamwork continues to impact global competitiveness as collaboration across time and space becomes increasingly frequent in the workplace (Fiore, Salas, Cuevas, & Bowers, 2003). Yet, there have not been any computer-aided design (CAD)/computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), or other engineering design graphics technologies that have been fully developed or integrated for design collaboration- that is, collaboration linking both geographically distributed designers and data, information and graphic information (i.e., images, pictures, graphs, diagrams, videos). While there is a plethora of groupware products on the market, coordinating design-work in an efficient and effective manner continues to be a major challenge for both public and private organizations. Currently collaboration is supported in piecemeal fashion by technologies such as groupware (i.e., electronic bulletin boards, chat systems, CAD, visualizations, document-sharing, virtual multiplayer gaming and video- and teleconferencing, among other technologies) designed to support communication and coordination activities among distributed coworkers. Additionally, none have leveraged the potential utility of visual simulation to externalize cognition (Fiore et al., 2010) and distributed or embedded sensor technologies for supporting realtime design collaboration. Thus, a ubiquitous collaboration system still remains to emerge, particularly one that effectively integrates visual tools and methods arising out of STEM, modeling and simulation, and the organizational and behavioral sciences.

The research challenge is to develop intuitive and visually-based technologies in an open infrastructure that would support highperforming STEM project teams who deploy their creativity, knowledge, organizational skills, and verbal and visual thinking to achieve results (Fiore, 2008). These verbal and visual communication challenges exist regardless of the team or industry, but they are particularly relevant to architecture, science, engineering, technology, mathematics, construction, maintenance, product/ system/process design, manufacturing, and life-cycle management, among other fields. …

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