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Game-Aided Pedagogy to Improve Students’ Learning Outcomes and Engagement in Transportation Engineering

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.637.1 - 24.637.18



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Paper Authors


Montasir Abbas P.E. Virginia Tech

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Dr. Montasir Abbas is an Associate Professor in the Transportation Infrastructure and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from University of Khartoum, Sudan (1993), a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1997), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering from Purdue University (2001).

Dr. Abbas has wide experience as a practicing transportation engineer and a researcher. He was an Assistant Research Engineer and the Corridor Management Team Leader at Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), where he has worked for four years before joining Virginia Tech. Dr. Abbas conducted sponsored research of more than $720,000 as a principal investigator and more than $750,000 as a key researcher at TTI. After joining Virginia Tech, he has conducted over $2,400,000 worth of funded research, with a credit share of more than $1,750,000.

Dr. Abbas is an award recipient of $600,000 of the Federal Highway Administration Exploratory and Advanced Research (FHWA EAR). The objective of the FHWA EAR is to “research and develop projects that could lead to transformational changes and truly revolutionary advances in highway engineering and intermodal surface transportation in the United States.” The award funded multidisciplinary research that utilizes traffic simulation and advanced artificial intelligence techniques. He has also conducted research for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program on developing “Traffic Control Strategies for Oversaturated conditions” and for the Virginia Transportation Research Council on “evaluation and recommendations for next generation control in Northern Virginia.”

Dr. Abbas developed Purdue Real-Time Offset Transitioning Algorithm for Coordinating Traffic Signals (PRO-TRACTS) during his Ph.D. studies at Purdue University, bridging the gap between adaptive control systems and closed-loop systems. He has since developed and implemented several algorithms and systems in his areas of interest, including the Platoon Identification and Accommodation system (PIA), the Pattern Identification Logic for Offset Tuning (PILOT 05), the Supervisory Control Intelligent Adaptive Module (SCIAM), the Cabinet-in-the-loop (CabITL) simulation platform, the Intelligent Multi Objective Control Algorithms (I-MOCA), the Traffic Responsive Iterative Urban-Control Model for Pattern-matching and Hypercube Optimal Parameters Setup (TRIUMPH OPS), the Multi Attribute Decision-making Optimizer for Next-generation Network-upgrade and Assessment (MADONNA), and the Safety and Mobility Agent-based Reinforcement-learning Traffic Simulation Add-on Module (SMART SAM). He was also one of the key developers of the dilemma zone protection Detection Control System (D-CS) that was selected as one of the seven top research innovations and findings in the state of Texas for the year 2002.

Dr. Abbas served as the chair of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) traffic engineering council committee on “survey of the state of the practice on traffic responsive plan selection control.” He is also a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Traffic Signal Systems committee, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Computing Applications committee, and the joint subcommittee on Intersection. In addition, he is currently a chair on a task group on Agent-based modeling and simulation as part of the TRB SimSub committee. He also serves as a CEE faculty senator at Virginia Tech.

Dr. Abbas is a recipient of the Oak Ridge National Lab Associated Universities (ORAU) Ralf E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award and the G. V. Loganathan Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Civil Engineering Education. He is also a recipient of the TTI/Trinity New Researcher Award for his significant contributions to the field of Intelligent Transportation Systems and Traffic Operations.

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Lisa D. McNair Virginia Tech

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Lisa D. McNair is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as Assistant Department Head of Graduate Programs and co-Director of the VT Engineering Communication Center (VTECC). She received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia. Her research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration, design education, communication studies, identity theory and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include interdisciplinary pedagogy for pervasive computing design; writing across the curriculum in Statics courses; as well as a CAREER award to explore the use of e-portfolios to promote professional identity and reflective practice. Her teaching emphasizes the roles of engineers as communicators and educators, the foundations and evolution of the engineering education discipline, assessment methods, and evaluating communication in engineering.

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Game-Aided Pedagogy to Improve Students’ Learning Outcomes and Engagement in Transportation EngineeringLearning in the Transportation Engineering field requires thorough content knowledge and asound conceptual understanding of applied engineering principles. Delivery of course contentneeds to utilize a platform for creative instructional activities that can capture and maintainstudents’ attention towards the course objectives. Computer-based educational games can bemodeled to deliver specific learning objectives and supplement adaptive learning, role-play, andsimulations. Previous research concluded that the introduction of a game into a course canmotivate students toward understanding the course material. Well-crafted games can transferknowledge in an efficient way and help students understand the concepts better, as shown in testswith increased scores compared to students who follow traditional text book learning. Gamesappear to be effective teaching tools for concepts that require repetition for proficiency, andshould be used as supplements that encourage students to understand and enjoy learning.The goal of this project is to go beyond the development or use of games in the classroom. Ourobjective is to investigate and design a game-aided pedagogy to improve students’ learningoutcomes and engagement in transportation engineering. This paper reviews previous findingsfrom the implementation of a traffic signal game in transportation courses, and reports initialresults from a cyclic approach to design and implement games into the curriculum of severaltransportation courses. We describe a web game with an effective set of exercises, and weexplain the methods used to assess the value of the games in relation to specific learningoutcomes and effective game teaching methods. Finally, we describe how the results of ouranalysis will be used to enhance the games and increase their effectiveness.

Abbas, M., & McNair, L. D. (2014, June), Game-Aided Pedagogy to Improve Students’ Learning Outcomes and Engagement in Transportation Engineering Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20528

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