Technology professors receive grant for diagnostic training program research

March 15, 2012

A team of Indiana State University professors received a grant to design a computer-based training program to help students strengthen their skills at finding and resolving technical problems.

The National Science Foundation awarded the grant to College of Technology professors George Maughan, A. Mehran Shahhosseini and Tad Foster to develop a program to bolster training for students in a variety of science and technology fields. The program will help students conceive ways to map the process of solving a problem in any variety of technological systems.

Typically, people cultivate the skills to diagnose problems in these complex systems through years of experience working with them, said Maughan, professor and director of the Ph. D. in technology management program.

"If this proves to be as useful and successful as we think it will, it will hopefully condense the time it takes to develop good diagnosticians and improve their skills," he added.

The professors complement each other well: Shahhosseini is an engineer who understands complex technical systems while Foster is an expert in teaching students about technology and conceptual mapping, said Maughan, who has researched about and trained people in developing the skills to diagnose problems. All three professors also are part of the Ph. D. in technology management program.

The effort appealed to the National Science Foundation because the project has the potential to help not only universities teach students, but it potentially fills a need sought by many employers, said Shahhosseini, assistant professor in the applied engineering and technology management department in the ISU College of Technology.

"They're looking for graduates who have a better knowledge to solve complex problems," Shahhosseini said of employers. "This kind of tool is going to help students understand the procedure of solving a problem and how they'll be able to do it more efficiently and in a shorter amount of time."

University professors have through the years tried different ways to incorporate critical analysis skills into the curriculum, though work still needs to be done to improve students' abilities, said Foster, professor of human resource development and performance technologies.

"The topic area is very, very timely," he said of the group's initiative. "It is a much needed bit of research and development."

They have already started their work on the computer-based training program. They are still doing preliminary research before designing the program, which will include problems from a variety of technological systems. Their plan is to then have undergraduate students at Indiana State among several other universities test the program.

"Students initially will be able to come up with the solution, and then they'll check their work with an expert solution," Shahhosseini said, "and they'll realize what they could do better to solve the problem in a shorter time or in a better fashion."

The research team hopes to collaborate with businesses in different industries to create the situations that students will need to diagnose and resolve. The professors expect that the program will not teach students the answer to a given problem; rather, they hope that students will develop a thought process to critically analyze and diagnose random problems in a similar way they will encounter once they enter the workforce.

"What we want to do is find a way to develop those skills for more and more people in a shorter period of time so that individual businesses and industry can be more effective at diagnosing and repairing problems, so that companies can be more effective at it," Maughan said, "and ultimately, so that our national competitiveness can improve."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Maughanshahhosseini2012/i-jPRW2SN/0/L/031212maughanshahhosseini-3755-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)Indiana State University professors George Maughan, left, and A. Mehran Shahhosseini. They and professor Tad Foster received a National Science Foundation grant to design a computer-based training program to help students strengthen their skills at finding and resolving technical problems.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Team-Sycamore-Awards-Banquet/030109motorsportsbanquet-58/483785175_4LWcq-L.jpgIndiana State University professor Tad Foster. He, along with ISU professors George Maughan and A. Mehran Shahhosseini, received a National Science Foundation grant to design a computer-based training program to help students strengthen their skills at finding and resolving technical problems.

Contact: George Maughan, professor and director of the Ph.D. in technology management program, College of Technology, Indiana State University, 812-237-3368 or george.maughan@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

The National Science Foundation awarded the grant to College of Technology professors George Maughan, A. Mehran Shahhosseini and Tad Foster to develop a computer-based program to bolster training for students in a variety of science and technology fields.

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