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Implementing Interactive 3-D Models in an Entry-level Engineering Course to Enhance Students’ Visualization

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering Experiences

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Alexandra Hain University of Connecticut

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Alexandra Hain is an Assistant Research Professor at the University of Connecticut in structural engineering. She received her PhD in Structural Engineering in 2019 from the University of Connecticut. She has used 3D modeling and virtual reality extensively in her research and is currently working on a project to extend the benefits of both augmented and virtual reality technology to undergraduate and graduate education.

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Sarira Motaref P.E. University of Connecticut

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Sarira Motaref is an associate professor in residence in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. she serves as Assistant Director of faculty development at the School of Engineering. She has been teaching large classes such as CE 2110 (Applied Mechanics I) and CE 3110 (Mechanics of Materials) which are major requirement across multiple disciplines in the School of Engineering since 2013. She has led the efforts within the Department to develop and deliver flipped sections of undergraduate courses. She is a licensed professional engineer. She has attended several teaching workshops and received certificates from UConn CETL (Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) and NETI (National Effective Teaching Institutes). Sarira is recipient of 2019 Distinguished Engineering Educator Award at the University of Connecticut, Winner of 2010 James D. Cooper Student Award at the International Bridge Conference, recipient of 2016, 2017, 2018 Klewin Excellence in teaching award and 2016 nominee for Mentorship Excellence Award from UConn office of undergraduates.

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The ability to evaluate engineering elements, identify expected deformations, and predict possible failure mechanisms are critical skills for engineers. However, it has been observed that many undergraduate engineering students in applied mechanics courses struggle with applying these skills in engineering problems. Previous studies have shown that three-dimensional (3D) visualization can help students to improve spatial understanding, learn material more permanently and improve their creativity. In an attempt to build on this phenomenon, interactive 3D models using Augmented Reality (AR) were incorporated in a Mechanics of Materials course. This course is an entry level course and a major requirement for different engineering disciplines such as Civil, Mechanical, Biomedical, Materials Science, and Manufacturing Engineering. Two levels of learning were targeted in this study; applying and creating. For applying, 3D models were made available that could be viewed on a smartphone using an AR application or on a computer. The models were generated for problems that students in previous years found challenging or expressed difficulty in visualizing. Students were then encouraged to use this model to inform their problem solving. For creating, students were given the opportunity to generate 3D models based on textbook examples, indicate types of stresses and display deformed shapes. For both activities, student perceptions, best practices, and lessons learned are noted. Students were also asked to provide feedback about their experience and the effectiveness of AR models in their learning in class evaluation surveys. To evaluate the effect of using 3D models on students’ performance, an independent study was conducted with students in the Mechanics of Materials course. In this two-problem study, one group only had access to a traditional two-dimensional (2D) schematic, while the other group had access to a 3D model. The experimental and control groups were then swapped for the second problem. The results of this study revealed that 3D models can significantly improve students’ performance. It is anticipated that discussing the benefits and challenges associated with incorporating such activities, along with providing suggestions for incorporation, will help other institutions add similar activities to their engineering courses in an effort to improve student learning.

Hain, A., & Motaref, S. (2020, June), Implementing Interactive 3-D Models in an Entry-level Engineering Course to Enhance Students’ Visualization Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34782

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