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Engineering professor earns New Faculty Fellow Award from IEEE

Assistant Professor of Engineering Joseph Ranalli
Assistant Professor of Engineering Joseph Ranalli

Assistant Professor of Engineering Joseph Ranalli received a New Faculty Fellow Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for using a video game to teach engineering students.

The IEEE formed in 1884 to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity and is the world’s largest technical professional society.

Ranalli submitted a paper, “Assessing the Impact of Video Game Based Design Projects in a First Year Engineering Design Course,” for the IEEE’s Frontiers in Education Conference.

“I think it's important to harness technology students are already comfortable with and that they already use for entertainment purposes to provide them with learning opportunities,” Ranalli said.

The video game that he used in class is called Kerbal Space Program, and it simulates space flight. By requiring students to simulate a flight to the moon, which helped them learn principles of rocketry such as thrust-to-weight ratio and orbital mechanics, Ranalli received a flight to Oklahoma City for the IEEE’s Frontiers in Education Conference on Oct. 23 to 26, 2013.

A review panel of engineering and computer science faculty selected Ranalli and other winners for the award that paid $1,000 for expenses to travel and attend the  conference, where they heard about innovations in educational practices.

Also, Ranalli won the Butler Technology and Teaching Award at Penn State Hazleton, partly because of how he used the video game.

Ranalli, who earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Penn State, came to the Hazleton campus to help teach students studying for a new engineering degree. The first students earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in General Engineering with with an Alternative Energy and Power Generation Track will graduate this year.

Ranalli studied power generation while earning his doctorate at the Virginia Tech University and spent three years of post-doctoral research on gas turbines at the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy in Morgantown, WV.

At Penn State Hazleton, he has delved into renewable power, designing a phone app and software that select optimal places for solar panels. He and other faculty are helping the Hazleton Fire Department plan safe approaches to fighting fires at solar installations.

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