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Studies of Flight, Vehicle Simulations By Team Including ODU Researcher Could Lead to Better Performance By NASA Astronauts

An Old Dominion University faculty member shared an award for the best paper presentation at the recent MODSIM World modeling and simulation conference in Virginia Beach.

Jiang Li, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, partnered with researchers from the University of Iowa and the modeling/simulation company Intelligent Automation Inc. on a project, funded by NASA, that looks at human performance in simulated vehicle operation.

The paper, entitled "Individualized Cognitive Modeling for Closed-Loop Task Mitigation," stemmed from flight, helicopter and vehicle simulations done at the University of Iowa.

The vehicle simulations involved strapping sensors onto the human testers to track body readings such as electroencephalogram tests (EEGs) and electrocardiogram tests (ECG), indicating when human performance starts to suffer.

Li said knowing the parameters of successful human performance "makes it possible to perform task management, minimize risks and improve mission performance."

NASA has invested a great deal of money in aviation safety, Li said. "They're looking at how these scores will translate into performance," he said. "If performance drops below a certain threshold, we must take action - such as evening out the workload in the crew - to optimize performance."

Using the simulator data, the researchers attempted to construct an "average" model of how a particular person will perform in a simulator under specific stressors. "I processed the data. The challenge here is for each different subject, the different signal might mean different things," he said.

With data crunched, Li constructed an algorithm that will help individualize the average model, depending on the different characteristics of the subject operating the simulator. The result shows that performance of the average model could be improved on a certain list of tests by up to 20 per cent.

Li came to Old Dominion after working at the National Institutes of Health. He said organizations such as the Transportation Safety Board are also interested in the research as a way to reduce the risk of crashes in the air or on roads.

Li utilized computer learning techniques to construct his algorithm. He said the principles of individualizing an average model are applicable to other research that he's doing including personalized medicine, research that has nothing to do with flight simulators.

"This could end up being a very valuable field of study," he said.

This article was posted on: November 30, 2009

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