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A Journey to Integrate Spatial Visualization into Community College Engineering and Technology Programs to Increase Student Diversity and Retention

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

ETD Curriculum

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Kenneth Paul Grimes Tidewater Community College

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Kenny Grimes is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, VA. TCC’s Associate of Science in Engineering program produces transfer students that comprise nearly half of the Old Dominion University engineering undergraduate population. Mr. Grimes’ TCC position is a culmination of diverse prior experiences from careers as a powertrain control system engineer at General Motors, a program director at SpringHill camp, and an urban public high school math and physics teacher and F.I.R.S.T. robotics team #1793 coach. He is recipient of TCC’s 2015 Faculty Reward for Professional Excellence in Teaching, is a 3-time Norfolk Public Schools Bell Award winner, a Norview High School’s Teacher of the Year finalist, a General Motors Sloan Fellow, and co-author of a ‘Best Paper” at the 1987 International Symposium on Automotive Technology Association, Florence, Italy. He earned a M.S. in Education from Ferris State University, a M.S. in Engineering from Purdue University, and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Kettering University. Mr. Grimes has also been an ASEE Two-Year College Division, Robot Competition - Judge, and Team Co-Sponsor from 2012 to the present.

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Sally Wells Daniel Tidewater Community College

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Sally Wells Daniel received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Philosophy from Centre College of Kentucky and a Master’s Degree in Community Psychology from Wichita State University. She became interested in the lack of women in STEM careers while working at The Women’s Center at Tidewater Community College. She first engaged women in career technical education and met with success in increasing the numbers of women in the school’s welding program. She also began studying why the number of women engineers had not risen in the same proportion as it had in other non-traditional professional careers. This research brought her to the disparity of spatial visualization intelligence between women and men. She transferred into the Engineering Department as the Coordinator of Recruitment and Retention at the community college, working with faculty and students to devise a way to increase spatial visualization in all students who wanted to be engineers.
Ms. Daniel was instrumental in securing a grant from the American Association of University Women to create a one-day hands-on STEM conference for 100 middle-school girls and their parents in 2014. Since receiving that grant, the Virginia Beach Branch of the AAUW has continued planning and implementing this conference. Ms Daniel is in her second term of presidency of this branch.

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A Journey to Integrate Spatial Visualization into Community College Engineering and Technology Programs to Increase Student Diversity and Retention. Abstract: The ability to think in 3D space is expected in most engineering, math, science, and technology courses. The ability to think in 3D space is also expected in careers of engineers and technicians. But it is not taught. It is the unspoken ‘genetic’ expectation for engineering and technology students. Without it, students are categorically dismissed as unfit for engineering or technology. In research spanning 14 semesters since 2009, Tidewater Community College (TCC) has proactively confronted diversity and retention in their engineering and technology programs by offering spatial visualization training. Through a journey of various training formats both engineering transfer and engineering technology student populations have shown a significant need for and benefit from spatial visualization training. TCC found 40% of engineer and technology students arrive unprepared in spatial visualization skills. This is a significantly more prevalent issue (and an opportunity) than traditional 4-year engineering and technology student populations exhibit. At TCC we have found the spatial visualization training resources from Dr. Sheryl Sorby is effective in remediating both the engineering and technology students. The training produces a significant improvement in PSVT:R scores. The training significantly reduces the failure rate and withdrawal rate in the graphics-based credit bearing course, and the training also improves the grade earned in the credit bearing course. The under prepared student pool appears over-represented with women and with non-white males. And finally, we have found that a volunteer participation policy is ineffective. The data and research in the significance of spatial visualization as a predictor of success, and a trainable trait is already presented elsewhere. TCC has attempted to duplicate these benefits and impact in student success and retention by a variety of pedagogical strategies including ten weeks of 1-hour sessions, four weeks of 2.5-hour sessions, five weeks of 2-hour sessions, asynchronous online, and flipped classroom formats. All of these formats worked. However, voluntary student participation has been very low in each of these strategies. It is difficult at the community college to replicate the curriculum integration practices of many 4-year schools to conduct mandatory assessment of all incoming freshman students and force enrollment of low scorers into an additional 15 hour, 1-credit course. Instead, TCC experimentation is converging on a reduce set of Sorby’s material within the content of a required 1-credit hour student orientation course. This approach promises to avoid administrative difficulties of new course adoption. It avoids required placement testing. And it has the benefit of reaching 100% of the under prepared students, regardless of the engineering or technology program the student may eventually complete.

Grimes, K. P., & Daniel, S. W. (2017, June), A Journey to Integrate Spatial Visualization into Community College Engineering and Technology Programs to Increase Student Diversity and Retention Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27470

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