Robert ‘Bob’ Thomas, Assistant Professor, Aeronautical Science, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Dr. Robert ‘Bob’ Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the Aeronautical Science Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach campus. He teaches courses relating to pilot training, aircraft performance, aviation instruction, curriculum design, and photography using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Bob’s research focus is on augmenting flight training methods, education technology, virtual reality training, active learning, data collection via UAS, and assessing pilot knowledge. He also has experience in television production and broadcast meteorology in both television and radio on local PBS and ABC affiliates.
Bob has 2800+ flight hours and holds the following FAA certificates and ratings: Airline Transport Pilot ASEL & AMEL with CL-65 type rating, Gold Seal Flight Instructor ASE, AME, & Instrument-Airplane; Ground Instructor-Advanced; and Remote Pilot-sUAS. He has experience as a Flight and Check Instructor under ERAU’s 14 CFR 141 Pilot School Certificate. Bob has a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Human Factors with a minor in Atmospheric Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has a Master of Science in Aeronautics Degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with concentrations in Aviation Weather and Education Technology. He completed his Ph.D. in Aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a specialization in Aviation Safety and Human Factors.
New Learning Technologies Using 3D Environments
New learning technologies using 3-D environments as a tool to train students are becoming more readily available in the flight training environment. Access to tools such as this one will save time and resources that normally require the use of an actual aircraft when trying to learn the various parts associated with an aircraft. One effort is being undertaken between Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Cole Engineering Solutions Inc. Their efforts to mature a distributed collaboration framework that includes an online browser-based capability, a desktop application and VR based suite with the three tools providing a complete synthetic environment. This framework will assist with the identification of various aircraft parts and engine parts as well as conducting a preflight on a general aviation aircraft (Cessna 172S). The software is designed to be a first-person point of view with the freedom to move around the virtual training environment. The users are able to interact with parts of the aircraft and will be provided with information as they progress through the training module. In doing so, the training will provide the student an active learning experience that will allow him or her to learn the aircraft parts and proper pre-flight procedures. An instructor led mode allows distributed instruction with individual students or groups of students and finally, a testing mode is also available to quiz the student and provide a grade for the experience.
The presentation will include an overview and demonstration of the software, a summary about the development process, and best practices discovered during development. In addition, as development and current beta testing continues, data collected during the testing process on student experience and knowledge gain will be presented. Lastly, a framework on how to expand these training methods to include more complex aircraft and topics will be provided.