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June 12, 2024

Abasiafak Udosen speaks on the role of AI in advancement of engineering education

By Ayo Onikoyi

In this article, Abasiafak (Abass) Ndifreke Udosen reveals the transformative potential of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) in revolutionizing engineering education.

Abasiafak is a COREN-registered Mechanical Engineer in Nigeria and an active member of several prestigious engineering institutions, notably the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the South African Institute of Mechanical Engineers (MSAIMechE), the American Society of Engineering Education Researchers (ASEE), and the African Engineering Education Fellows in Diaspora (AEEF). Driven and at the forefront of his research endeavors, he focuses on deploying innovative research solutions to address challenges in Mechanical (Thermo-fluids) Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, and Computing and Engineering Education.

Currently an instructor at the Emergent Mechanisms in Biology of Robustness Integration and Organization Institute (EMBRIO) and a doctoral researcher at Purdue University in the United States, he investigates engineering teams and designs an integrative transdisciplinary computational biology curriculum for Biomedical Engineering and computational biology instruction. His approach includes using computational apprenticeship, mixed methods, design-based research, and artificial intelligence-based methodologies.

In a recent co-authored, peer-reviewed publication, he highlights ongoing efforts in the United States to integrate cutting-edge Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) technologies driven by Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, Meta LLaMa3, Gemini, ChatGPT 4.0, and Microsoft Copilot. “GAI presents a promising avenue for revolutionizing engineering education, offering potential benefits in instructional design, classroom pedagogy, and assessment,” he noted.

With over seven years of experience in teaching engineering courses, he believes that traditional methods, which often rely on lectures, lab sessions, and textbooks, may not fully engage students or cater to diverse learning styles and experiences. He asserts that despite inherent flaws in GAI technologies, such as misinformation, hallucinations, bias, and ethical concerns, these issues are being significantly addressed through consistent updates. “For instance, OpenAI’s GPT model was updated from GPT-3 with 175 billion parameters (tokens and words)  to GPT-4.0, featuring more than 10 trillion parameters,” he explained.

According to him, “I envision Engineering institutions incorporating GAI-powered virtual laboratories like Google Colab into their curricula. The GAI-assisted Google Colab environment can support Engineering students in modeling and simulating complex engineering experiments and scenarios. This is especially beneficial for African Engineering students and researchers who lack access to research funding and functioning laboratories or equipment.”

He added, “I have had the privilege of developing and running similar virtual-based experiments with embedded interactive scaffoldings for Biomedical Engineering undergraduate and graduate students in America.” 

He believes that the potential for gaining hands-on Engineering experience even from the comfort of one’s bedroom is limitless with GAI-assisted platforms.

Another key focus of Abasiafak’s research in AI use and ethics is encapsulated in one of his on-going works titled, Artificial Intelligence Tools: A Potential for the Eradication of Ethical Issues in Research Papers in Universities in Nigeria: A Critical Review and Outlook. “AI has the potential to ensure the integrity of academic research by detecting plagiarism and other unethical practices,” he asserted. “By deploying advanced AI tools, we can enhance the credibility and quality of academic output in Nigerian universities.”

Extending beyond building virtual labs, conducting research, and classroom instruction, “ With dedication, I also participate in community service-led teaching schemes. In Nigeria, I joined various community service-led teaching schemes and served as a resource person in the training and re-training of middle and high school teachers. In the United States, I am a STEM judge, an ambassador, and a virtual Judge for EXPLAR and the Army education outreach program known as eCYBERMISSION, where I actively engage with young minds, fostering their interest in STEM disciplines and promoting the program to potential volunteers and underrepresented STEM communities.”

Abasiafak’s ongoing PhD research investigates teamwork dynamics and collaborative learning in computational modeling and simulation projects. “By understanding how engineering students collaborate and share scientific knowledge in team settings, we can enhance their model-based reasoning skills through effective teamwork and social interaction,” he explained.

Looking ahead, he envisions a future rich with interdisciplinary research. “I aim to explore Computing and Engineering Education, Computational Modeling of thermo-fluid processes in biological systems, and the integration of AI and Machine Learning approaches,” he reveals. “Post-PhD, I hope to collaborate with academic or industry research teams to make meaningful and impactful contributions to society.”

Reflecting on his inspiration to pursue a career in science and engineering, Udosen credits his parents. “My mother, a Full Professor of Educational Technology, and my father, a consultant Architect and Building Engineer, provided invaluable mentorship,” he recounts. “Their guidance fueled my passion for the engineering sciences, leading me to a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in energy and power engineering.”