Published: Jan. 9, 2013

After recently receiving the Faculty Early Career Development Program Award from the National Science Foundation, Matthew R. Hallowell, assistant professor of construction engineering and management, plans to offer his students a more engaging, valuable academic experience. With the NSF CAREER Award, Hallowell is conducting a large research project in which students will also have the chance to participate.

Hallowell’s groundbreaking research, “Predictive Modeling of Construction Injuries in Complex Environments,” examines how injury prevention can be improved at construction sites. Rather than quantifying individual risks, this research looks to complete a content analysis on previous injury reports to identify fundamental attributes that could contribute to injuries. From there, Hallowell is using multivariate statistics to forecast the probability of specific injuries.

As part of the educational experience, Hallowell plans to teach students how to incorporate these models within an augmented reality system. Most universities teach construction safety based on OSHA standards, but this is often not enough to prevent injuries. While OSHA standards must be followed, even OSHA-compliant companies are experiencing injuries and fatalities. By students working with this augmented reality system, they will be better prepared to respond to the dynamics and complexities of construction environments once they begin their careers.

“Instead of having a checkbox or list of rules that must be followed, students learn how to be more proactive and redesign a worksite,” Hallowell says. “For example, you can get to the site and find an exposed edge, or you can design the facility so that it never had an exposed edge in the first place.”

With this educational approach, students can expect to receive a more valuable learning experience, Hallowell says. Students are not spending their time listening to lectures. Instead, they are using classroom time to experience this innovative research firsthand.

“It’s not lecture based by any means,” Hallowell says. “It’s more experiential learning, and it’s certainly more engaging. This will encourage active learning instead of passive learning, so the students don’t just sit and listen. They do and talk.”