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Preparing Students for Engineering Success through Improving 3-D Spatial Skills

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-College: Perceptions and Attitudes on the Pathway to Engineering (4)

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jason Richard Power Michigan Technical University

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I lecture and co-ordinate initial teacher engineering education modules and initial engineering modules. My origins in engineering education and my later research within experimental psychology provide a multidisciplinary platform that allows me to examine the realm of engineering education from multiple perspectives. My current research focuses on self-efficacy relative to multiple different engineering associated domains including spatial capabilities and academic performance.

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Sheryl A. Sorby Ohio State University

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Dr. Sheryl Sorby is currently a Professor of STEM Education at The Ohio State University and was recently a Fulbright Scholar at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Dublin, Ireland. She is a professor emerita of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University and the P.I. or co-P.I. on more than $9M in grant funding, most for educational projects. She is the former Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech and she served at the National Science Foundataion as a Program Director in the Division of Undergraduate Education from January 2007 through August 2009. Prior to her appointment as Associate Dean, Dr. Sorby served as chair of the Engineering Fundamentals Department at Michigan Tech. She received a B.S. in Civil Engineering, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, all from Michigan Tech. Dr. Sorby has a well-established research program in spatial visualization and is actively involved in the development of various educational programs.

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Norma L. Veurink Michigan Technological University

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Norma Veurink is a Senior Lecturer in the Engineering Fundamentals Department at Michigan Technological University where she teaches introductory engineering courses and a spatial visualization course designed for engineering students with poorly developed spatial visualization skills. Ms. Veurink manages several summer programs that introduce middle and high school students to engineering. She is active in the Engineering Design Graphics Division of ASEE.

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Kinnari Atit Northwestern University

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Kinnari Atit is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. Her areas of research include the intersection of spatial thinking and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Her work focuses on understanding the role of spatial thinking skills in STEM domains, and also how to bolster and develop STEM-relevant spatial thinking skills in students. Prior to Northwestern, Kinnari was a postdoctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth where she investigated alternative methods of identifying academic talent in historically underrepresented students. Kinnari received her PhD in Psychology at Temple University in 2014 where she studied the role of spatial thinking in one specific STEM domain – the geosciences . Her current research questions include understanding the role of spatial thinking skills in learning computer programming, and examining whether improving middle school students’ spatial thinking skills effects their math achievement.

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Martha Carr University of Georgia

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Three-dimensional spatial skills have been shown to be critical to success in variety of STEM fields. In particular, spatial skills have been linked to success in engineering and in learning to program in computer science. Unfortunately, of all cognitive processes, 3-D spatial skills exhibit some of the most robust gender differences, favoring males, which could have serious implications as we attempt to increase gender diversity in our engineering programs. Spatial skills are not usually a part of the formal instruction in the pre-college classroom, meaning that many of our students enroll in our engineering programmes deficient in these skills. A course for developing 3-D spatial skills has been offered at various universities in the US over the past two decades. Outcomes for this course include improved grades and graduation rates for the students who participate in it, particularly for the women. Based on these successes at the university level, attempts are being made to incorporate spatial skills training into pre-college classrooms. The authors are involved in a collaborative study regarding the impact of spatial skills training at the pre-college level. This paper describes the study and also outlines key findings to date. The implications for engineering access and success will be discussed.

Power, J. R., & Sorby, S. A., & Veurink, N. L., & Atit, K., & Carr, M. (2017, June), Preparing Students for Engineering Success through Improving 3-D Spatial Skills Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28755

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015