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  1. null (Ed.)
    Virtual reality (VR) technology allows for the creation of fully immersive environments that enable personalized manufacturing learning. This case study discusses the development of a virtual learning factory that integrates manual and automated manufacturing processes such as welding, fastening, 3D printing, painting, and automated assembly. Two versions of the virtual factory are developed: (1) a multiplayer VR environment for the design and assembly of car toys; which allows for the collaboration of multiple users in the same VR environment, and (2) a virtual plant that utilizes heavy machinery and automated assembly lines for car manufacturing. The virtual factory also includes an intelligent avatar that can interact with the users and guide them to the different sections of the plant. The virtual factory enhances the learning of advanced manufacturing concepts by combining virtual objects with hands-on activities and providing students with an engaging learning experience. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Problem-solving focuses on defining and analyzing problems, then finding viable solutions through an iterative process that requires brainstorming and understanding of what is known and what is unknown in the problem space. With rapid changes of economic landscape in the United States, new types of jobs emerge when new industries are created. Employers report that problem-solving is the most important skill they are looking for in job applicants. However, there are major concerns about the lack of problem-solving skills in engineering students. This lack of problem-solving skills calls for an approach to measure and enhance these skills. In this research, we propose to understand and improve problem-solving skills in engineering education by integrating eye-tracking sensing with virtual reality (VR) manufacturing. First, we simulate a manufacturing system in a VR game environment that we call a VR learning factory. The VR learning factory is built in the Unity game engine with the HTC Vive VR system for navigation and motion tracking. The headset is custom-fitted with Tobii eye-tracking technology, allowing the system to identify the coordinates and objects that a user is looking at, at any given time during the simulation. In the environment, engineering students can see through the headset a virtual manufacturing environment composed of a series of workstations and are able to interact with workpieces in the virtual environment. For example, a student can pick up virtual plastic bricks and assemble them together using the wireless controller in hand. Second, engineering students are asked to design and assemble car toys that satisfy predefined customer requirements while minimizing the total cost of production. Third, data-driven models are developed to analyze eye-movement patterns of engineering students. For instance, problem-solving skills are measured by the extent to which the eye-movement patterns of engineering students are similar to the pattern of a subject matter expert (SME), an ideal person who sets the expert criterion for the car toy assembly process. Benchmark experiments are conducted with a comprehensive measure of performance metrics such as cycle time, the number of station switches, weight, price, and quality of car toys. Experimental results show that eye-tracking modeling is efficient and effective to measure problem-solving skills of engineering students. The proposed VR learning factory was integrated into undergraduate manufacturing courses to enhance student learning and problem-solving skills. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    Contribution: This article discusses the use of manufacturing simulation games to study collaborative problem-solving skills in engineering students. The simulation represents the mass production paradigm in which large quantities of identical products are produced. Empirical data is collected from the simulation to evaluate the skills engineering students used in solving the problem and their group effectiveness. Background: The use of simulation games to teach problem solving in design and manufacturing is an effective approach to convey concepts to students. Simulation games engage students in experiential and collaborative learning with fun elements. Research Questions: How does hands-on simulation engage students in collaborative problem solving? How does participation in collaborative problem solving affect group effectiveness? Methodology: This work presents a study of 37 university-level engineering students in the United States. Participants worked in groups completing the simulation game and responded to surveys on their various skills used. Findings: Participants utilized analytical, metacognitive, and thinking skills in their engagement, reported that the simulation games enhanced their understanding of manufacturing concepts and active collaboration improved problem-solving effectiveness. 
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  4. Metacognition is the understanding of your own knowledge including what knowledge you do not have and what knowledge you do have. This includes knowledge of strategies and regulation of one’s own cognition. Studying metacognition is important because higher-order thinking is commonly used, and problem-solving skills are positively correlated with metacognition. A positive previous disposition to metacognition can improve problem-solving skills. Metacognition is a key skill in design and manufacturing, as teams of engineers must solve complex problems. Moreover, metacognition increases individual and team performance and can lead to more original ideas. This study discusses the assessment of metacognitive skills in engineering students by having the students participate in hands-on and virtual reality activities related to design and manufacturing. The study is guided by two research questions: (1) do the proposed activities affect students’ metacognition in terms of monitoring, awareness, planning, self-checking, or strategy selection, and (2) are there other components of metacognition that are affected by the design and manufacturing activities? The hypothesis is that the participation in the proposed activities will improve problem-solving skills and metacognitive awareness of the engineering students. A total of 34 undergraduate students participated in the study. Of these, 32 were male and 2 were female students. All students stated that they were interested in pursuing a career in engineering. The students were divided into two groups with the first group being the initial pilot run of the data. In this first group there were 24 students, in the second group there were 10 students. The groups’ demographics were nearly identical to each other. Analysis of the collected data indicated that problem-solving skills contribute to metacognitive skills and may develop first in students before larger metacognitive constructs of awareness, monitoring, planning, self-checking, and strategy selection. Based on this, we recommend that the problem-solving skills and expertise in solving engineering problems should be developed in students before other skills emerge or can be measured. While we are sure that the students who participated in our study have awareness as well as the other metacognitive skills in reading, writing, science, and math, they are still developing in relation to engineering problems. 
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  5. Familiarity with manufacturing environments is an essential aspect for many engineering students. However, such environments in real world often contain expensive equipment making them difficult to recreate in an educational setting. For this reason, simulated physical environments where the process is approximated using scaled-down representations are usually used in education. However, such physical simulations alone may not capture all the details of a real environment. Virtual reality (VR) technology nowadays allows for the creation of fully immersive environments, bringing simulations to the next level. Using rapidly advancing gaming technology, this research paper explores the applicability of creating multiplayer serious games for manufacturing simulation. First, we create and validate a hands-on activity that engages groups of students in the design and assembly of toy cars. Then, a corresponding multiplayer VR game is developed, which allows for the collaboration of multiple VR users in the same virtual environment. With a VR headset and proper infrastructure, a user can participate in a simulation game from any location. This paper explores whether multiplayer VR simulations could be used as an alternative to physical simulations. 
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  6. Problem-solving is an iterative process that requires brainstorming, analysis of the problem, development and testing of solutions. It relies on under-standing what is known and what is unknown about the problem. That knowledge of the knowns and unknowns is called metacognition. Today’s engineers must understand their own metacognition and that of other team members to derive the best solutions for engineering problems given the different constraints. Engineers working in design and manufacturing fields confront challenges due to a lack of important metacognitive understanding of their own and their team’s problem-solving skills. This research suggests measuring metacognition within teams by using manufacturing simulations with virtual reality and eye tracking 
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