LOGAN – Getting an engineering degree isn’t an easy task. Heavy amounts of coursework and difficult exams often lead to high amounts of stress. A USU assistant professor of engineering is hoping to help understand and eventually ease that stress.
Next fall, researcher Idalis Villanueva will begin using a special classroom to monitor the stress of engineering students in order to develop a curriculum that could potentially aid both the students and professors. She hoping to help them better understand what is causing stress and how to manage it.
“The curriculum would encompass trainings, suggestions and advice,” Villanueva said.
Each student who participates in the study will wear an electrodermal wrist senor. Villanueva said it is a small device that collects physiological data, similar to a Fitbit. Every fourth of a second the device will send data such as the wearer’s heart rate, blood pressure, blood volume, temperature, mobility and sweat. That will help Villanueva and the other researchers understand what is more likely to prompt stress.
“If the student were wearing the wrist sensor in class and there was the announcement of an exam, we could see that increase and response from the student pretty close to real time,” she said.
Villanueva credited USU and furniture company Steelcase with helping to retrofit the classroom to optimize its teaching and research capabilities. Steelcase is providing mobile classroom furniture Villanueva believes will be beneficial.
“If you have a fixed classroom setting where there is limited interaction with students and where it’s not so easy to work on group projects, that may be stressful in itself, especially because engineering is very group based,” she said. “If you have a fixed desk that you can’t move, that might be an indirect stressor as well.”
Villanueva said Utah State’s support of the research is another example of its commitment to student well-being.
“They’ve been doing quite a bit of initiatives on campus,” she said. “By supporting this project this is one way that they’re doing that.”