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A Qualitative Exploration Of Engineering Students’ 3 D Visualization Processing

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.106.1 - 11.106.11



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Paper Authors


Erik Schwartz University of Missouri-Rolla

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Erik Schwartz is a masters student in Information Science and Technology at the University of Missouri -Rolla. His research focuses on human-computer interaction with a focus on learning technologies.

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Timothy Philpot University of Missouri-Rolla

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Timothy A. Philpot is an Associate Professor in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Department at the University of Missouri–Rolla. Dr. Philpot received a Ph.D. degree from Purdue University in 1992, an M.Engr. degree from Cornell University in 1980, and a B.S. from the University of Kentucky in 1979, all in Civil Engineering. Dr. Philpot teaches Statics and Mechanics of Materials and is the author of MDSolids – Educational Software for Mechanics of Materials and MecMovies, recipients of the Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware.

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Richard Hall University of Missouri-Rolla

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Dr. Richard H. Hall is a Professor of Information Science and Technology at the University of Missouri-Rolla. He received his BS degree in Psychology from the University of North Texas and Ph.D. degree in Experimental Psychology from Texas Christian University. He is director of UMR's Laboratory for Information Technology Evaluation, and his research focuses on design, development, and evaluation of web-based learning technologies.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Exploration of Engineering Students’ 3D Visualization Processing


The goals of this study were to: a) Identify patterns in students’ processing of 3D models presented via drawings, interactive computer models, and physical models; and b) Identify design principles to guide the development of computer based simulations for enhancing students’ 3D visualization skills, based on the results of the processing analysis. Pairs of students enrolled in a Mechanics of Materials class were presented with a series of 3d models and associated problems, presented in three formats (paper, computer models, & physical models). They were required to describe their general theories as to the behavior of the models based on the forces provided, and were also required to calculate moments based on the forces presented in the drawings. As they worked they were required to discuss the problem aloud with their partner. Students’ activities were video taped, including dynamic screen capture of students’ manipulation of the computer models. These data were then analyzed via systematic application of qualitative techniques, with a focus on identifying categories of processing behaviors, assigning behaviors to these categories, and relating these to student performance. The following themes were identified as playing an important role in student performance: a) precise terminology; b) breaking problems into component parts; c) complimentary roles in collaborative teams; c) purposeful, hands-on, interaction with materials; and d) problem visualization. Design principles, based on these findings, are discussed.


Statics and Mechanics of Materials, two large-enrollment engineering core courses, often give students their first actual taste of engineering, and that first taste is not always satisfying. With emphasis on problem-solving techniques, these courses can seem mathematical, abstract, and unrelated to the “real world.” Students often view these courses as necessary evils that must be endured until they can reach their “major” classes. With such an introduction to engineering, it is not surprising that many students become discouraged and drop out of engineering programs during the sophomore and junior years before reaching the subjects that attracted them to engineering in the first place. Consequently, initiatives aimed at improving the effectiveness of the engineering core courses can play an important role in increasing student retention and student satisfaction. Furthermore, changes that make these courses more effective in terms of student learning can have a major impact on engineering education by virtue of the large number of students affected.

Researchers and instructors at the University of Missouri – Rolla have carried out such initiatives over the last several years. In January 2000, UMR began a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s FIPSE program (FIPSE #P116B000100) called BEST Mechanics. This project developed second-generation courseware for the Statics, Dynamics, and Mechanics of Materials courses. The software utilizes animation, sophisticated illustrations, and interactivity to explain concepts and teach skills in ways not possible through the conventional textbook-and-lecture format [1, 2]. Assessment results have been very encouraging [3-5] in that

Schwartz, E., & Philpot, T., & Hall, R. (2006, June), A Qualitative Exploration Of Engineering Students’ 3 D Visualization Processing Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1122

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