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Preliminary Analysis of Spatial Ability Improvement within an Engineering Mechanics Course: Statics

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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

Measuring Learning in Statics & Dynamics

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Steven David Wood Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Steven Wood is a junior in the Civil Engineering program. After finishing his BS he plans on completing a MS in Civil Engineering. In addition to studies, he is a teacher’s assistant and he teaches a recitation class for the Statics course. His Interests in the field of engineering are public transportation, specifically in rapid and heavy rail systems. His research interests include spatial ability, learning styles, and gender differences in meta-cognition.

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Wade H Goodridge Utah State University

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Wade Goodridge, Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Technology Education at Utah State University, has taught Solid Modeling, CAD, Introductory Electronics, Surveying, Statics, teaching and Learning, Assessment and Evaluation, and Introductory Engineering courses at Utah State University. Goodridge has been teaching for the Utah State College of Engineering for more than 15 years. He holds dual B.S degrees in industrial technology education and civil engineering from Utah State University, as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering from Utah State University. His research interests include spatial thinking/spatial ability at a course specific level in engineering, conceptual and procedural knowledge interplay in novice engineering students, and entrepreneurship.

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Benjamin James Call Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Benjamin Call graduated with his Masters of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (Aerospace Emphasis) in 2006 from Utah State University. After eight years with NAVAIR, he has returned to pursue a PhD in Engineering Education. He is funded by the Presidential Doctoral Research Fellowship. His research interests range from sophomore-level engineering curricula to spatial ability and creativity to student entrepreneurship.

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Thayne L Sweeten Ph.D. Department of Biology, Utah State University,

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Thayne Sweeten earned a Ph.D. in Medical Neurobiology and Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis. He teaches biology courses for Utah State University and publishes research in pedagogy and the etiology of autism and related disorders focusing on immune mechanisms.

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Spatial ability has been an area of research for decades. Distinct correlations have been discovered regarding research into spatial ability and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics disciplines (STEM). However, spatial ability is a term that can be confusing to practitioners. For this purpose, spatial ability, a measure of an individual’s capability to exercise a specific construct of spatial thinking, will be defined explicitly in this paper. Spatial ability has been positively correlated to success in the professional engineering world as well as within engineering coursework. In view of this correlational evidence, an argument forms for the academy to develop a more refined understanding of the improvement in spatial ability and underlying impacting mechanisms of spatial thinking within undergraduate engineering courses.

This paper presents preliminary research into spatial ability’s correlation to performance in an engineering Statics course. Statics is a fertile engineering course to research as it is a gateway course where students often determine if they will persevere in engineering. It is the first class in the Engineering Mechanics Series and is required by most mechanical, civil, environmental, biological, and aerospace engineering programs.

Results indicate that spatial ability does improve significantly in a Statics course for both sexes. Data was collected using two spatial instruments, the Mental Cutting Test and the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Visualization of Rotations, and a demographic survey. A pre- and post-test design was used for both tests where tests where given in the first week and in the final week of the course. A series of paired t-tests are used to statistically analyze for improvement and the potential correlation between the spatial pre- and post-tests demographic variables. Additionally, the study was replicated in an Anatomy class to address potential risks to the study. Results indicate that spatial ability of the students in the Anatomy class does not significantly improve. Further research is suggested in looking into the demographic factors of each study including previous and concurrent course experience.

Wood, S. D., & Goodridge, W. H., & Call, B. J., & Sweeten, T. L. (2016, June), Preliminary Analysis of Spatial Ability Improvement within an Engineering Mechanics Course: Statics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25942

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