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Board 82: Visual Literacy in Mechanical Engineering Design: A Practical Approach to Assessment and Methods to Enhance Instruction

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Design Graphics Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

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Paper Authors


Caitlin A. Keller Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Caitlin Keller is the Instructional Designer for Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her primary role involves partnering with teaching faculty to create and develop courses in the online, blended, and face-to-face environments. Caitlin serves as the designer, facilitator, and instructional design consultant for the Faculty Institute for Online Teaching program. Caitlin holds a Master of Science degree in Learning Technologies and Instructional Design from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Lebanon Valley College.

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Laura A. Robinson Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Holly K. Ault Ph.D. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Holly K. Ault is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She serves as director of the Copenhagen Project Center and director of the Assistive Technology Resource Center. She received her B.S. in chemistry, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from WPI in 1974, 1983 and 1988 respectively.

Professor Ault has advised off-campus project students in London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Windhoek (Namibia), San Jose (Costa Rica), Washington, D.C., Boston, Modesto (Calif.), Hong Kong and Melbourne (Australia). In the fall of 2001, she was invited as the Lise Meitner Visiting Professor, department of design sciences, Lund Technical University, Lund, Sweden. Prior to teaching at WPI, she worked as a manufacturing engineer for the Norton Company in Worcester, Mass., and product development engineer for the Olin Corporation in East Alton, Ill.

Professor Ault’s primary teaching responsibilities include undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in computer-aided design, mechanical design, and rehabilitation engineering. Her research interests include computer-aided mechanical design, geometric modeling, kinematics, machine design, rehabilitation engineering, and assistive technology. She is a member of ASME, ASEE, ISGG and Tau Beta Pi.

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This work-in-progress seeks to benchmark the visual literacy skills of undergraduate mechanical engineering students at a small technical university, as well as the faculty’s current efforts to develop students’ visual literacy skills. Visual literacy is accepted as a crucial 21st century for students, professionals, and citizens, yet its definition varies greatly across the literature. In addition, existing assessment tools are too general and are insufficient for measuring visual literacy as it applies to engineering design. Our work seeks to establish a simplified method for assessing the visual literacy skills of graduating seniors in a mechanical engineering program. This work will inform the practical next steps in improving visual literacy pedagogy within the program in ways that are sustainable and effective for both faculty and students. We report on the methods of reviewing student visual literacy skills through an examination of a sample of capstone reports completed by the undergraduate mechanical engineering students in the class of 2017 in order to provide a baseline assessment of visual literacy skills. In addition, we report on survey results from faculty respondents regarding the importance they place on visual literacy within their instruction and in assessing students, what tools and methodologies faculty are currently employing, and explore what resources faculty would be most likely to utilize for enhancing instruction within this area. It is expected that strategies and tools will be identified that could be adapted for use at other institutions and programs for assessing visual literacy in STEM fields. Future expansion of this work will include assessment of a larger sample of mechanical engineering student work, as well as other STEM programs in order to measure student growth in visual literacy skills over the duration of their undergraduate experiences. Pilot studies involving faculty training in enhanced pedagogical strategies will also be developed based on the outcomes of our research.

Keller, C. A., & Robinson, L. A., & Ault, H. K. (2018, June), Board 82: Visual Literacy in Mechanical Engineering Design: A Practical Approach to Assessment and Methods to Enhance Instruction Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30117

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