top of page
Journal of Engineering Education
Person or thing oriented: A comparative study of individual differences of first‐year engineering students and practitioners

Engineering practice is meant to advance the human condition, yet curricula do not appear to fully promote the human‐centered philosophy of engineering in implementation. The educational system may inadvertently signal to students that engineering is a career choice better suited for those preferring to work with things rather than people. This framing of the profession prompts questions regarding student interests when compared to those of practicing engineers and how such interests become concrete through education and introduction into the profession.

Project Support Files
Ability Tests
About Us
ACED Lab.jpg
About Us

A team dedicated to engineering education research and the engineering learner

Through real-world engineering applications, the ACE(D) Lab experiential learning research crosses disciplines including engineering, psychology and the learning sciences, as we uncover how individual performance is influenced by abilities, personal interests and direct manipulation of physical and virtual objects. Led by Dr. Diana Bairaktarova, the ACE(D) Lab at Virginia Tech is dedicated to engineering and design education research and the engineering learner.


Using innovative technologies to study novel user interfaces, virtual and augmented learning and working environments that encompass human aspects at the cognitive, eye-tracking and sensory-motor levels.

Our Misson

Adopting design thinking as a philosophy (inspiration, ideation, and quick prototyping) to investigate user-centered design, empathic design and design for social innovation.


Investigating the role of individual aptitudes and abilities in performing and learning engineering through psychometric instruments and psychological interventions.

Diana Bairaktarova


Diana Bairaktarova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech (VT), an Affiliate faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and faculty in the Human-centered Design Program also at VT. She earned her BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Technical University of Sofia, Bulgaria, an MBA from Hamline School of Business in St. Paul Minnesota and PhD degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She has over fifteen years of experience working as a Design and Manufacturing Engineer. Before joining Virginia Tech, Diana started her academic career as a Professor of Practice in the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at University of Oklahoma. Her current research projects investigate how mechanical aptitude and spatial ability, interest, and manipulation of physical and virtual objects influence learning and performance in engineering. By providing applications of real-world engineering tasks in the exploration of new designs that stimulate creativity and visual reasoning, Dr. Bairaktarova aims to prepare her students with innovative thinking, helping them to face rapidly changing technologies. 

Project Support Files
Project Support Files

Virtual Learning for Thermodynamics

We have developed virtual objects (vObjects) learning environment aid the pedagogy of abstract concepts in engineering Thermodynamics. The impact of the vObject tool has being evaluated by practicing engineers in the Energy filed through a course project where students were required to construct a conceptual power plant. Run setup in the downloaded folder to create a desktop shortcut.


For Windows


For MacOS

Man Hands On Keyboard
We'll get back to you soon!

Thanks for submitting!

us on
social media!
bottom of page