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Developing A Virtual Reality Based Spatial Visualization Assessment Instrument

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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


Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.433.1 - 11.433.19



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Paper Authors

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Nathan Hartman Purdue University


Patrick Connolly Purdue University

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Patrick Connolly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology with Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana. He received his BS degree in Design and Graphics Technology and MS degree in Computer Integrated Manufacturing from Brigham Young University. Prior to joining Purdue in 1996, he worked for twelve years in the aerospace and computer software industries. His interests include solid modeling applications, virtual reality, visualization techniques, learning styles, e-enterprise, and distance learning. He is active in ASEE/EDGD and is a member of the Gamma Rho Chapter of the Epsilon Pi Tau.

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Jeffrey Gilger Purdue University

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Jeffrey W. Gilger (PhD, UCSB) is Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the Purdue University College of Education. As Associate Dean he works to build research programs, infrastructure and faculty development mechanisms, and consults or advises on a large number of research projects from very diverse content areas. Gilger’s background includes an MS and certification in Clinical Child/School Psychology, and he holds an MA and PhD in Developmental Psychology with a specialty in Behavioral Genetics. Gilger’s scholarship is multidisciplinary spanning the clinical, educational and neuroscience disciplines. His teaching and research has tended to focus on normal and abnormal neuropsychological development, genetics, and the etiology of learning-language disorders.

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Gary Bertoline Purdue University

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

Developing a Virtual Reality-based Spatial Visualization Assessment Instrument


The computer graphics profession, particularly the educational component, takes into account a person’s spatial abilities as a means for designing effective instructional experiences and assessments. Typical assessments examine such abilities as mental rotations, spatial visualization, and spatial perception. Spatial visualization skills relative to a cutting plane passing through an object is critical in the use of in many computer graphics software tools. This ability is widely considered to be a significant predictor of probability of a person’s success in the computer graphics vocation. The Mental Cutting Test (MCT) is an assessment instrument that is commonly used to measure spatial visualization skills. This instrument is currently available only in paper-and-pencil format. However, the nature of the human ability being measured is such that the paper-and-pencil format currently used has no mapping to the target construct domain – namely 3D computer graphics in the real world. This lack of authenticity puts into serious question not only the perceived validity (face validity) of the test, but also the purposes for which test scores from the MCT are put to use (construct validity). In an effort to minimize these issues, the cognitive psychology and computer graphics communities have developed virtual reality-based versions of a mental rotations instrument to examine various constructs. But a mental rotations assessment does not provide a complete coverage of a person’s spatial abilities. This paper focuses on the development and methodology for pilot testing a working prototype of a virtual reality-based version of a spatial abilities assessment instrument which uses the MCT as a model.


Many tasks in our modern world require the ability to perform spatially – to be able to navigate and manipulate objects in the imagined environments of the mind. Many professions and educational entities take into account a person’s spatial abilities as a means for designing effective instructional experiences and assessments. In many cases, this has involved the use of a standardized test to measure the spatial aptitude of the participant, followed by the use of the score on that test to predict the level of participant success in a particular setting or vocation. Typical assessments (e.g., the mental Cutting Test (MCT) or the Mental Rotations Test (MRT)) examine such constructs as mental rotations, spatial visualization, and spatial perception. However, these assessments are generally given in paper-and-pencil formats, which are lacking when compared to the 3D tangible worlds individuals must work in.

Standard paper-and-pencil assessment instruments used to measure spatial abilities are inadequate for modern applications and technological capabilities. The use of more realistic and interactive virtual reality (VR) environments would better simulate real world conditions and provide a truer measure of spatial acuity. The focus of this research is the development of a virtual reality-based assessment instrument. This should be completed early in the Spring semester, 2006. Subsequently, we will conduct a pilot study using Purdue students. The purposes of this study are to: a.) to assess the usability of the virtual reality-based assessment (VRBA)

Hartman, N., & Connolly, P., & Gilger, J., & Bertoline, G. (2006, June), Developing A Virtual Reality Based Spatial Visualization Assessment Instrument Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--122

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