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Human Factors Conference Returns To CSULB March 3

Published: March 1, 2012

The Seventh Annual Regional Human Factors conference returns to CSULB on Saturday, March 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Psychology’s room 150. Admission is free.

Organized by the CSULB Student Chapter of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (CSULB-HFES) and sponsored by CSULB-HFES, the Center for Human Factors in Advanced Aeronautics Technologies (CHAAT), CSULB, the Associated Students Inc. and the College of Liberal Arts Student Council, the regional conference is a local forum for the exchange of ideas in all areas of human factors as well as a chance for students to meet top names in their field.

This year’s speakers and their topics include:

Mark Conger, Project Management Professional, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, will speak on “Enhancing Multi-Tasking Ability through Action Video Games.” Conger will present the results of a foundational study conducted to assess how video games can be leveraged as a training tool. Conger also will address his career and how he managed to incorporate video games into Northrop Grumman projects.

Jason Yow, Playtest and Game Analysis Manager, Disney Interactive Media Group, and CSULB alumnus will address “Video Games and Human Factors: Things that Go Great Together.” Games User Research (GUR) involves analyzing pre-beta versions of games in order to determine whether users are able to understand the game’s controls and objectives. Yow will discuss the process his team has created and some of the challenges it faced in adapting to Disney.

Mark Pestana, NASA Research Pilot, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, explores “Flying NASA Unmanned Aircraft: A Pilot’s Perspective.” Pestana will share his experiences piloting unmanned drones with NASA. He will speak on human-machine interface issues, how unmanned flying vehicles are redefining the roles of pilots and some potential difficulties with bringing drones into the national airspace system.

The conference will also host a poster session that will provide students and professionals an opportunity to present and discuss their research and Human Factors projects. A speaker breakout session will offer the chance for small group discussions with the invited speakers.

CSULB-HFES advisor and psychology professor Thomas Strybel applauded the daylong event’s return and its commitment to student participation.

“CSULB’s Student HFES Chapter is the prime organizer of the annual event. This organization is extremely active; it was awarded the Outstanding Student Chapter Gold Award by the national HFES for the past six years,” he said. “The conference as been a very successful event for us as more and more groups and individuals are participating.”

Human factors (also known as ergonomics or human engineering) is a scientific discipline which examines human behavior and capabilities in order design products, equipment and systems for safe, effective human use. CSULB’s Human Factors faculty members are at work on a variety of topics including basic human performance, human-computer interaction and aviation psychology, covering the workload, situation awareness and interface design for air traffic controllers and pilots. The Human Factors program features such labs as CHAAT, which measures human performance in such complex systems as the Next Generation Airspace Transportation System (NextGen) and the Center for Usability in Design and Assessment (CUDA), which evaluates software and web interfaces for ease of use, effectiveness and satisfaction to users.

Strybel believes the continued success of the conference reflects the growth of Human Factors at CSULB.

“When our master’s program in Human Factors was established in 2005, it was a small program,” he said. “It has grown tremendously, thanks to the support of CSULB, NASA and other aerospace firms such as The Boeing Company.

“One of the goals of CHAAT is to continue to grow CSULB’s research capabilities and to attract students from underrepresented minorities. Currently, we have four core faculty members. We work with representatives from NASA and the aerospace industry, and invite our collaborators contacts at such firms to participate in the conference.”

Strybel sees the conference as a showcase for the master’s program and grant-supported projects. “The best way to get out the information about how special this program can be is when potential donors and employers are walking around the campus. If they are interested in research, maybe they will come back and talk to us about it.”

Strybel encouraged the university and local community to attend. “There’s a lot more going on than just a free lunch,” he laughed. “There is something at the conference for anyone with an interest in human factors, technology and design. This is a chance to hear some interesting speakers and interact with professionals in the field. It also provides an opportunity for students considering careers in human factors to get an overview of the many areas in which human factors professionals work.”

–Richard Manly