- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 2049983
- First Name Stephen
- Last Name Farenga
- Discipline Data Science, Engineering, Physics, STEM Education (general)
Salvatore Garofalo, Stephen Farenga
The purpose of the Queens College NSF Noyce SciTech TEAMS Program is to prepare highly-qualified science educators. Part of this qualification is to prepare science teachers for both the technology of today as well as the future. Drone technology is advancing and operation of drones is a highly sought after skill. The introduction of drones to science educators will better inform them on how to incorporate drone use in the science classroom and to prepare their students with this skill. Additionally, drone operation is novel to many individuals and therefore use of a drone is an initial learning experience regardless of the age of the operator. This project demonstrates mental demand at initial learning and how mental demand may change over time. At this stage in the project, the science educators are self-reporting the mental demand required to operate drones. This information will better prepare science educators for the learning curve of drone operation of their own students. Mental demand was compared between groups that reported use of the congruent skill of video game use. Gender groups were also compared.
What degree of mental demand is required for drone operation? Are there differences in mental demand among genders? Does a congruent skill, such as video game use, lessen mental demand of drone operation? Does spatial ability impact mental demand of drone operation? What is the role of prior knowledge in learning a new skill?
As part of the advanced technology seminar in our Noyce Program, candidates were afforded the opportunity to operate drones. Each candidate was equipped with a drone and an iPad to operate the drone. Candidates were paired so one participant could support the person flying the drone. Candidates were given time to operate the drone and encouraged to fly however they seemed fit. After drone operation, candidates completed the NASA Task Load Index to report their mental demand. Additionally, candidates reported their level of video game use. Video game use was identified as a congruent skill to drone operation. Participants also completed the Mental Rotation Test to measure their spatial ability. One week later, candidates had an additional opportunity to fly the drones and report their mental demand.
Drone operation, at initial learning, was considered to require a high degree of mental demand for non-video game players and females. Video game players and males (which were not identical groups) reported lower mental demand compared with non-video game players and females. Non-video game players experienced a significantly lower mental demand over time and video game players experienced no difference in mental demand. Females experienced a significantly lower mental demand over time and males experienced no difference in mental demand. Spatial ability was not a significant covariate.
The purpose of this study is to measure the impact of certain factors such as congruent skills and gender on mental demand at initial learning. In this case, video game use was used as a congruent skill due to the similarity in method of manipulation of video game avatars and drones through joystick controls. The high mental demand at initial learning for non-video game players demonstrates that at initial learning, new concepts are perceived as cognitively demanding. However, the repeated use of the drones also provides information on skill building and the perceived degree of mental demand over time and experience which was lessened for the non-video game player group. Similarly, this study demonstrates that females, who initially felt drone operation was cognitively difficult, experienced a decrease in mental demand after repeated use. Drone operation is a valuable skill in many fields including agriculture, geology, and defense and employers are searching for qualified employees. There is a need to support the growth of this skill for all genders which begins with science educators being familiar with drone operation to better teach their students and an acknowledgement that repeated use can lessen the cognitive demands of a novel concept.