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Improvements in Student Spatial Visualization in an Introductory Engineering Graphics Course using Open-ended Design Projects Supported by 3-D Printed Manipulatives

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Spatial Visualization Within Engineering Design Graphics

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Wilhelm Alex Friess University of Maine

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Dr. Friess holds a Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering and a B.Sc. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1997), and currently is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering with the University of Maine (since 2012). Previously he has spent 5 years in Dubai as inaugural faculty of RIT Dubai and Dubai Aerospace Enterprise University. Dr. Friess’ industrial and academic career spans a variety of consulting and entrepreneurial activities in Europe, Asia and Africa. Dr. Friess’ research background includes fluid mechanics, composite materials, performance optimization, and global engineering education. Current research interests focus on engineering education, in particular curriculum integration and innovative pedagogical methods.

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Eric L. Martin University of Maine

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Eric Martin earned his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine in 1998 and 2010, respectively. For fourteen years he provided mechanical engineering services in the areas of vacuum science, electro-chemical sensors, and tribology. Some of his work includes designing and building a Sonde to measure green-house gases deep within ice sheets, and a Pin-on-Disk friction & wear testing machine. Since 2012 Mr. Martin has been with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine teaching teaches courses in CAD, engineering mechanics, and machine design.

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Ivan E. Esparragoza Pennsylvania State University, Media

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Ivan E. Esparragoza is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Penn State. His interests are in engineering design education, innovative design, global design, and global engineering education. He has introduced multinational design projects in a freshman introductory engineering design course in collaboration with institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of his effort to contribute to the formation of world class engineers for the Americas. He is actively involved in the International Division of the American Society for Engineering Education and in the Latin American and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institution (LACCEI) as Vice-President for Finance.

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Oenardi Lawanto Utah State University

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Dr. Oenardi Lawanto is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University, USA. He received his B.S.E.E. from Iowa State University, his M.S.E.E. from the University of Dayton, and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before coming to Utah State, Dr. Lawanto taught and held several administrative positions at one large private university in Indonesia. He has developed and delivered numerous international workshops on student-centered learning and online learning-related topics during his service. Dr. Lawanto’s research interests include cognition, learning, and instruction, and online learning.

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This work-in-progress reports changes in development of Spatial Visualization (SV) skills in students taking a first semester Engineering Design Graphics course modified to integrate geometric design modules supported by manipulative production through 3D printing. The ability to imagine three dimensional objects, to visualize them in rotated states, and to subsequently communicate them in 2D (sketches) and 3D space (virtual solid models) is a critical skill for engineers, and a large body of research has shown that the development of these skills is indicative of student success and persistence in engineering. Thus a course that due to its non-mathematical nature is often perceived as non-critical, in practice has demonstrated to be of high importance, as it is where decisions for exiting the program are made. The improvement of the development of SV skills during the freshman year has also received significant attention in the literature. The widespread teaching of 3D solid modeling software for the past two decades has introduced the capability to easily visualize objects in three dimensions, and typically constitutes the core content of the first design course. The flipside of this development is that the learning curve for the normally employed parametric solid modeling software is steep, and requires explicit instruction on the use of the software. Thus the course often has a focus on learning the software (which is typically done by requiring the students to learn the software by modeling existing 2D or 3D representations of an object), and not a design focus, where students develop a geometric solution to a stated problem without having any prior representation of the solution. The latter clearly requires the students to visualize the geometry of a solution before it is generated (either on paper or virtually in the computer). The work in progress presented here assesses differences in SV development in students enrolled in two sections of the same Engineering Graphics and Design course during the Fall 2015 semester; one that is taught in the traditional fashion and that represents a control group of 80 students, and a second section (76 students) modified to include two week-long and appropriately scaffolded geometric design exercises. Part visualization is supported by requiring the students to use and/or print 3D manipulatives of the parts that constitute the connecting elements to their freeform design problem, and to generate prototypes of their final solution in order to test assembly capability. The assessment tool utilized is the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test Rotations, administered in pre and post mode in both sections.

Friess, W. A., & Martin, E. L., & Esparragoza, I. E., & Lawanto, O. (2016, June), Improvements in Student Spatial Visualization in an Introductory Engineering Graphics Course using Open-ended Design Projects Supported by 3-D Printed Manipulatives Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25608

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