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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 30, 2007

UI engineer exhibits test to evaluate effectiveness of training systems

A University of Iowa laboratory whose current research is aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of training sessions administered to military flight trainees is attracting attention at an educational conference in Orlando, Fla.

That's because the laboratory -- the Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL) in the UI College of Engineering's Center for Computer Aided Design -- is the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy booth at the conference. Called the 2007 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), the Nov. 26-30 meeting attracts thousands of government, business and industry leaders from across the country.

Tom Schnell, associate professor of industrial and mechanical engineering and OPL director, says the conference is an excellent way to let people know about UI research that will improve the flight training process and possibly lead to significant cost reductions. The showcased technology also has applications in non-aviation contexts such as medicine and engineering.

"The OPL exhibit involves the Quality of Training Effectiveness Assessment tool that uses neural imaging and physiological sensors to describe the state of naval aviator trainees," Schnell said. "This will save money because training times will be reduced, possibly by as much as 50 percent. Using this real-time data, training scenarios can optimally adapt their intensity to maximize the effectiveness of learning and the fidelity of training systems can be tuned to optimize cost-effectiveness trade-offs."

An important part of training is assessment and feedback. Schnell noted that conventional testing uses estimated, subjective data to assess the cognitive workload and situation awareness of trainees. The subjective assessments are often biased or even inaccurate and can be difficult to use in real-time. By comparison, the OPL test uses data from neurophysiological and physiological sensors in combination with mission data to gain a fuller picture of training effectiveness. The sensors include a remote-mounted eye tracker, a dense array electroencephalogram (EEG) system, a facial temperature sensor, a respiration sensor, a heart monitor, galvanic skin response, body temperature, and pulse oxygenation. Other measures such as functional near Infrared and hemodynamics measures are in the works.

Schnell added that the OPL test is well suited for use in non-aviation applications. Examples of such uses might include intensive care patient monitoring, biometrics, crew station design, and adaptive automation.

The conference is designed to promote cooperation among the armed services, industry, academia and various government agencies in pursuit of improved training and education programs, identification of common training issues and development of multiservice programs.

The exhibit is based on an Office of Naval Research-funded (ONR) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program performed by Advanced Infoneering Inc. (AI2), an Iowa business spun-off from OPL. AI2 and OPL collaborate with Alion Science and Technology and the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division to improve naval aviation training systems to transform and maintain the U.S. edge in combat power.

Located in one of 437 booths operated by 529 companies, the OPL-based exhibit has been prominently featured in the Show Daily publication (, page 8). The work shown by OPL at I/ITSEC is based on ongoing research in the area of flight safety, funded by the NASA Aviation Safety Program, and on funding from ONR under the STTR.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,