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I have been awarded $170,000 from the UW Innovation Fund for the project “Engineering Communication in Data Rich Environments: How do we support innovation in multidisciplinary teams?”
Today’s engineers grapple with more data, more people, and less time. Design theory suggests collaborative problem solving leads to innovation, but multidisciplinary projects often fall short of this potential because experts from different fields lack the communication and collaboration skills they need to translate their work across disciplinary boundaries. Joint problem solving requires teams to address differences in values, requirements, and constraints, as happens when a structural engineer collaborates with an architect. Few engineers are trained explicitly in these skills, yet engineering problems from hardware to infrastructure, from nanotechnology to skyscrapers require engineers to work with teams of experts from different fields.
Through a UW Innovation Research Award, our project will study how engineers communicate with data and data visualizations for interdisciplinary innovation. We will study both student teams and industry teams to identify the key challenges and opportunities for collaboration in these settings. Our research to date suggests a paradox: more detailed visualizations make it easier for interdisciplinary teams to identify and agree upon problems while making it harder for them to generate solutions. The answer to this paradox, we think, is in the communication strategies that engineers use with other professionals. Our goals are to inspire engineering innovation through the transformation of collaboration with data across disciplines; measure the impact of data communication on shared understanding; and train future engineers in the skills and techniques for communication and collaboration in data-rich environments.
I have been awarded $200,000 in the form of a UW Innovation Education Award, “Closing the Innovation Readiness Gap.”
My team of four researchers is creating a cross-disciplinary, Web-based program that will provide mentoring and a support network to help students across departments gain entrepreneurial –thinking skills and increase their problem-solving skills. My teammates include Payman Arabshahi, associate professor of electrical engineering and research scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory; Vipin Kumar, associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Vikram Jandhyala, vice provost for innovation at UW CoMotion and professor of electrical engineering.
“These are some of the most creative thinkers in our midst and are at the heart of the UW’s innovation ecosystem,” said Provost Ana Mari Cauce. “We congratulate them for fueling the innovative research and education that is working toward a world of good.”
The Innovation Awards will encourage, nurture, bring together, and celebrate creative thinkers in our midst, while increasing public awareness of academic innovation.
$10,000. Microsoft FUSE Labs Faculty Research Award. “The Peer Economy as Virtual Workplace.”