About Me

I am a physicist, a computational scientist, an inventor, and an educator with a passion to explore how research tools and methods developed and used by scientists and engineers can be harnessed as effective learning tools to meet pressing challenges in science, engineering, and technical education to solve critical social and environmental problems. As research and education share the same goal of understanding how the world works and finding solutions to build a better world, there is no reason that a research tool built for diverse applications cannot be used to educate, inspire, and empower people in diverse settings. For example, infrared imaging is a compelling demonstration of how an advanced technology developed by the industry to solve engineering problems can be harnessed as an effective learning technology to solve educational problems. Computational physics provides digital representations of natural phenomena by solving their governing equations numerically. Computational science is also key to creating artificial intelligence that advances personalized learning, the number one among the fourteen grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century as identified by the National Academy of Engineering of the United States. To some extent, my work responds to their call.

At present, I am working in four different directions concurrrently: artificial intelligence, cyber-physical systems, energy science, and quantum science, funded mostly by the National Science Foundation (and my own personal time). According to Google Analytics, my products have served over a million people and generated broad impacts around the world.

Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in collaboration.

My summer workstation in an infrared eye


Making Computational Thinking Visible

(January 1, 2021) iFlow is a graphical computation environment that I am developing to bring flowcharts (the architecture of computer code independent of any programming language) to life for visualizing computational thinking. The long-term goal is to support dynamic graphic coding for a variety of difficult tasks in math, science, and engineering.

Infrared Street View Comes into Sight

(October 22, 2019) The National Science Foundation awarded us $500,000 in 2018 to explore possibilities to crowdsource the Infrared Street View through a citizen science project that aims to promote science education and raise public awareness of energy efficiency. After more than a year of hard work, I have developed my own thermal imaging app based on the low-cost FLIR ONE camera and managed to move this vision closer to reality. The screenshot image to the right shows the Infrared Street View rendered on a smartphone (click the image to view the Web-based version). Apart from viewing the thermal images that we have collected on the East and West Coasts to discover interesting thermal phenomena, the smartphone-based app can also be used by anyone to make such panoramic street views anywhere in the world. For more information, check out my recent presentation.

Digital Twins Born

(March 14, 2019) Digital twin technology is the core of cyber-physical systems that drive Industry 4.0. I have started tapping into the potential of using digital twins to create a development platform that aims to simplify the learning and application of the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring its power to more people. A digital twin of the Rainbow HAT (hardware attached to the top) for the Raspberry Pi has been created in the cloud to enable real-time state synchronization over the air. For more information, see my blog article.

Project Snake Eyes Launched

(August 22, 2018) Project Snake Eyes aims to combine image analysis and infrared imaging to create biomimetic thermal vision — computer vision that simulates the ability of some animals such as snakes to see in darkness. One of the goals of Project Snake Eyes is to create probably the world's first robotic snake that can hunt through thermal sensing. Project Snake Eyes not only can detect heat, but it can also estimate the size and proximity of the source, giving the robotic snake the artificial intelligence to figure out whether or not it should strike the target. This technology has many applications in science and engineering. For more information, see my blog article.

Artificial Intelligence Comes to Energy3D

(July 4, 2018) Based on an engine of evolutionary computation I built, Energy3D is now one of the most accessible generative design tools for students, teachers, and engineers to imagine how future of work at the human-technology frontier in the field of engineering and education will be transformed by the power of artificial intelligence (AI). The possibilities created by AI for engineering and education are now limited only by our imagination. Intense research and development are now under way in my lab to unveil this transformative power. For more information, see my blog article about how AI can outsmart human in designing a solar farm.

JUMP Innovation Challenge for Smartphone Applications for Energy Efficiency

(October 5, 2016) The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and CLEAResult announced the grand prize winner in the JUMP Call for Smartphone Innovations during their Energy Forum in Austin, Texas, which was attended by more than 200 utility executives and industry representatives. The winner was our SmartIR — a smartphone app to create an infrared street view similar to the Google Street View but in infrared light.

Putting Learning under a "Big Data Microscope"

(October 1, 2013) The National Science Foundation has awarded us $1.5 million to advance educational research on engineering design using computational process analytics based on big data. This study will probably be the largest-scale study on engineering design in the history of engineering education — Approximately 3,000 students will be involved in 6-8 hours of intense design projects using our Energy3D software, producing about 60 GB of process data that will become the "gold mine" of educational research. Fore more information, check out my presentation to NSF or my article on learning visualization.

Keynote Address at InfraMation

(November 6, 2012) I was invited by FLIR Systems to deliver a 45-minutes keynote speech at the Opening Plenary of InfraMation, the world's largest conference on infrared imaging. I presented several original scientific discoveries based on IR imaging, proposed the concept of educational imaging, and suggested business strategies for the education market. The presentation was very well received. I was glad to see that my contributions to applied IR imaging had been recognized by the industry.

From Virtual to Real

(April 28, 2012) Energy3D, featured at 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival, is our signature software tool for designing and making scale-model buildings. A cool feature of the program is that students can print out their computer models, cut the pieces out, and then assemble them into physical models. In the future, we hope to integrate this tool with digital fabricators that use additive manufacuring technologies to accelerate the conversion.