Michael Hsiao, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been named the W.S. “Pete” White Chair for Innovation in Engineering Education by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The W.S. “Pete” White Chair for Innovation in Engineering Education was established by American Electric Power to honor Pete White, a 1948 graduate of Virginia Tech, and to encourage new interest in the teaching of engineering and improve the learning process. Recipients hold the chair for a period of two years.

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2001, Hsiao is the creator of GameChangineer, a one-of-a-kind platform that allows learners to create video games using English. The technology behind the GameChangineer platform makes innovative use of recent advances achieved in artificial intelligence, natural language processing and understanding, compiler design, video game design, and user-centered interface design.

The result is a learning tool that engages students of any age. Because students today have grown up with the Internet and are familiar with computer games, learning to build games is a natural hook to the active learning offered by the platform. It has also been reported that nearly 50 percent of those who play games are female.

Using this platform, English sentences are written in such a way that express computational thinking concepts. Students can practice the logic behind game creation, as well as discover critical thinking in popular video games. Rather than having students read code written in conventional programming languages, this platform enables students to read in a language that they are familiar with, and it is much more natural and aligned to what they are used to.

Using this learning tool, Hsiao has conducted outreach to many student groups at Virginia Tech as well as K-12 schools across Virginia. His outreach work was recognized through the Virginia Cooperative Extension Program Excellence Award in 2019.

During his career, Hsiao has been supported by more than $14 million in research grants, including 13 National Science Foundation grants. He has served as the primary advisor for 19 Ph.D. students and 59 master’s degree students, with whom he has published more than 270 peer-reviewed publications.

Hsiao received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

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