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Differences in perceived stress levels and measured stress while solving spatial tests

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Design Graphics Division Technical Session 1

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Paper Authors


Gibin Raju University of Cincinnati

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Gibin Raju is a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Engineering Education at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. His research interests are focused on Spatial Visualization, DEI in Engineering, ID/ODD, STEM accessibility issues, workforce development, STEM education, and education practices.

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Sheryl Sorby University of Cincinnati


Grace Panther University of Nebraska - Lincoln

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Grace Panther is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She has experience conducting workshops at engineering education conferences and has been a guest editor for a special issue of European Journal of Engineering Education on inclusive learning environments. Her research areas include spatial visualization, material development, faculty discourses on gender, and defining knowledge domains of students and practicing engineers.

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Clodagh Reid Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest

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PhD in spatial ability and problem solving in engineering education from Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest. Graduated in 2017 from the University of Limerick with a B. Tech (Ed.). Member of Technology Education Research Group (TERG).

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Jasmine Mogadam University of Cincinnati

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Enrolled in University of Cincinnati from 2020-2025 in a 5 year program for a Bachelor's in Science.

Majoring in Computer Science.

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Many events, including tests, personal conflicts, and hard deadlines, may result in a high level of stress for both students and educational practitioners. For example, taking a test is particularly stressful for students who are less prepared and who may have limited knowledge of the subject. There is a dearth of literature regarding the stress levels, real or perceived, experienced by students while solving spatial tests. Advancements in micro-electromechanical systems have helped researchers in collecting physiological data with smart devices such as wristbands, chest bands, and armbands. In particular, wristbands have been widely recommended by researchers because they are easy to wear, easy to use, and “non-invasive,” since they are similar to watches or exercise tracking devices.

This paper aims to explore the differences in self-reported stress levels perceived by engineering students and their stress levels recorded by a wristband while solving spatial tasks. An Empatica E4 wristband sensor was used to collect multiple body signals including 3-axis acceleration signals, Electrodermal Activity (EDA) signal, heart rate, and body temperature. In particular, recorded EDA signals reveal information on emotional and cognitive state by measuring the electrical resistance of the skin. If a person is under stress or experiencing increased cognitive load, the skin conductance increases. To measure the perceived stress levels by the participants, a perceived cognitive load instrument scale was used. This study involved 143 undergraduate engineering students at two large public research universities. The study was conducted over two sessions. The first phase of the study was online with participants completing three spatial tests including the Mental Cutting Test (MCT), the Paper Folding Test (PFT), and the Surface Development Test (SDT). The perceived cognitive load instrument was administered after each spatial test. During the second phase of the study, 35 participants were selected based on their performance on the spatial tests to come in person and wear the wristband device while completing spatial and verbal analogy tests and solving six engineering mechanics problems. The same perceived stress scale was administered at the end of each of these tests/tasks. Data was analyzed and evaluated to determine how stress level, both perceived and measured, varied for high and low spatial visualizers while solving spatial tests. The result highlights that engineering students experience stress while solving spatial problems. Analysis indicated that there were no statistically significant differences between the high and low spatial visualizers. Limitations of the study are discussed at the end.

Raju, G., & Sorby, S., & Panther, G., & Reid, C., & Mogadam, J. (2022, August), Differences in perceived stress levels and measured stress while solving spatial tests Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--41582

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