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  1. This research paper examines the patterns of inter-brain synchrony among engineering student teams and the relationship between inter-brain synchrony and team cooperation and performance. A pilot study was conducted with eight two-person teams of fourth-year undergraduate civil engineering students. Three collaborative design and build tasks were assigned to each team. Two independent raters carried out the behavioral analysis, scoring team cooperation. Each team member wore a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) device to measure inter-brain synchrony during the tasks. The results showed that inter-brain synchrony occurred during the team task, but the patterns varied between groups and tasks. Elevated levels of inter-brain synchrony were observed in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The left VLPFC and left DLPFC are often associated with cognitive processes such as problem-solving, working memory, decision-making, and coordinated verbal exchange. Inter-brain synchrony was positively correlated with task performance and cooperation when teams were asked to design and build a structure given limited time and money but negatively correlated with cooperation and performance on other more open-ended design sketching tasks. The study’s findings suggest that inter-brain synchrony exists when engineering students work together as a team, but the results are inconsistent between task types. Inter-brain synchrony could be a useful metric for measuring team cooperation and performance, particularly in tasks that require coordinated verbal exchange, problemsolving, and decision-making. However, the study’s small sample size limits the generalizability of the results. Future studies with a larger sample size and more diverse groups of engineers are needed to validate the findings and explore their implications further. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 20, 2024
  2. Gero, John S. (Ed.)
    To explore the connection between brain and behavior in engineering design, this study measured the change in neurocognition of engineering students while they developed concept maps. Concept maps help designers organize complex ideas by illustrating components and relationships. Student concept maps were graded using a pre-established scoring method and compared to their neurocognitive activation. Results show significant correlations between performance and neurocognition. Concept map scores were positively correlated with activation in students’ prefrontal cortex. A prominent sub-region was the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is generally associated with divergent thinking and cognitive flexibility. Student scores were negatively correlated with measures of brain network density. The findings suggest a possible neurocognitive mechanism for better performance. More research is needed to connect brain activation to the cognitive activi-ies that occur when designing but these results provide new evidence for the brain functions that support the development of complex ideas during design. 
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  3. Gero, J.S. (Ed.)
    In this paper, we explored changes in brain states over time while designers were generating concepts. Participants either used morphological analysis or TRIZ to develop a design concept for two design tasks. While designing, participants’ brain activation in their prefrontal cortex (PFC) was monitored with a functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy machine. To identify variation in brain states, we analyzed changes in brain networks. Using k-mean clustering to classify brain networks for each task revealed four brain network patterns. While using morphological analysis, the occurrence of each pattern was similar along the design steps. For TRIZ, some brain states dominated depending on the design step. Drain states changes suggests that designers alternate engaging certain subregions of the PFC. This approach to studying brain behavior provides a more granular understanding of the evolution of design brain states over time. Findings add to the growing body of research exploring design neurocognition. 
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  4. Gero, John S. (Ed.)
    In this paper, we explored changes in brain states over time while designers were generating concepts. Participants either used morphological analysis or TRIZ to develop a design concept for two design tasks. While designing, participants’ brain activation in their prefrontal cortex (PFC) was monitored with a functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy machine. To identify variation in brain states, we analyzed changes in brain networks. Using k-mean clustering to classify brain networks for each task revealed four brain network patterns. While using morphological analysis, the occurrence of each pattern was similar along the design steps. For TRIZ, some brain states dominated depending on the design step. Drain states changes suggests that designers alternate engaging certain subregions of the PFC. This approach to studying brain behavior provides a more granular understanding of the evolution of design brain states over time. Findings add to the growing body of research exploring design neurocognition. 
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  5. Gero, J.S. (Ed.)
    To explore the connection between brain and behavior in engineering design, this study measured the change in neurocognition of engineering students while they developed concept maps. Concept maps help designers organize complex ideas by illustrating components and relationships. Student concept maps were graded using a pre-established scoring method and compared to their neurocognitive activation. Results show significant correlations between performance and neurocognition. Concept map scores were positively correlated with activation in students’ prefrontal cortex. A prominent sub-region was the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is generally associated with divergent thinking and cognitive flexibility. Student scores were negatively correlated with measures of brain network density. The findings suggest a possible neurocognitive mechanism for better performance. More research is needed to connect brain activation to the cognitive activities that occur when designing but these results provide new evidence for the brain functions that support the development of complex ideas during design. 
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  6. The research presented in this paper tested whether drawing concept maps changes how engineering students construct design problem statements and whether these differences are observable in their brains. The process of identifying and constructing problem statements is a critical step in engineering design. Concept mapping has the potential to expand the problem space that students explore through the attention given to the relationship between concepts. It helps integrate existing knowledge in new ways. Engineering students (n=66) were asked to construct a problem statement to improve mobility on campus. Half of these students were randomly chosen to first receive instructions about how to develop a concept map and were asked to draw a concept map about mobility systems on campus. The semantic similarity of concepts in the students’ problem statements, the length of their problem statements, and their neurocognition when developing their statements were measured. The results indicated that students who were asked to first draw concept maps produced a more diverse problem statement with less semantically similar words. The students who first developed concept maps also produce significantly longer problem statements. Concept mapping changed students’ neurocognition. The students who used concept mapping elicited less cognitive activation in their left prefrontal cortex (PFC) and more concentrated activation in their right PFC. The right PFC is generally associated with divergent thinking and the left PFC is generally associated with convergent and analytical thinking. These results provide new insight into how educational interventions, like concept mapping, can change students’ cognition and neurocognition. Better understanding how concept maps, and other tools, help students approach complex problems and the associated changes that occur in their brain can lay the groundwork for novel advances in engineering education that support new tools and pedagogy development for design. 
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  7. Neuroimaging provides a relatively new approach for advancing engineering education by exploring changes in neurocognition from educational interventions. The purpose of the research described in this paper is to present the results of a preliminary study that measured students’ neurocognition while concept mapping. Engineering design is an iterative process of exploring both the problem and solution spaces. To aid students in exploring these spaces, half of the 66 engineering students who participated in the study were first asked to develop a concept map and then construct a design problem statement. The concept mapping activity significantly reduced neurocognitive activation in the students’ left prefrontal cortex (PFC) compared to students who did not receive this intervention when constructing their problem statement. The sub-region in the left PFC that elicited less activation is generally associated with analytical judgment and goal-directed planning. The group of students who completed the concept mapping activity had greater focused neurocognitive activation in their right PFC. The right PFC is often associated with divergent thinking and ill-structured representation. Patterns of functional connectivity across students’ PFC also differed between the groups. The concept mapping activity reduced the network density in students’ PFC. Lower network density is one measure of lower cognitive effort. These results provide new insight into the neurocognition of engineering students when designing and how educational interventions can change engineering students’ neurocognition. A better understanding of how interventions like concept mapping shape students’ neurocognition, and how this relates to learning, can lay the groundwork for novel advances in engineering education that support new tools and pedagogy for engineering design. 
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  8. The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) method and toolkit provides a well-structured approach to support engineering design with pre-defined steps: interpret and define the problem, search for standard engineering parameters, search for inventive principles to adapt, and generate final solutions. The research presented in this paper explores the neurocognitive differences of each of these steps. We measured the neuro-cognitive activation in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of 30 engineering students. Neuro-cognitive activation was recorded while students completed an engineering design task. The results show a varying activation pattern. When interpreting and defining the problem, higher activation is found in the left PFC, generally associated with goal directed planning and making analytical judgement when interpreting and defining the problem. Neuro-cognitive activation shifts to the right PFC during the search process, a region usually involved in exploring the problem space. During solution generation more activation occurs in the medial PFC, a region generally related to making associations. The findings offer new insights and evidence explaining the dynamic neuro-cognitive activations when using TRIZ in engineering design. 
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