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Sketching During Mechanical Design: Studying Sketching At The University Of Maryland

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design Projects in Mechanical Engineering I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1063.1 - 14.1063.15



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Paper Authors


Sophoria Westmoreland University of Maryland

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Sophoria Westmoreland is a Graduate Student at the University of Maryland in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She completed her first bachelor's degree in General Engineering at Clark Atlanta University and her second bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Ashley Grenier University of Maryland

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Ashley Grenier is an May 2008 Master's graduate from the University of Maryland in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

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Linda Schmidt University of Maryland

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Sketching During Mechanical Design: Studying Sketching at the University of Maryland


The ability to create hand-drawn sketches is still a relevant skill for design engineering. [1] The idea that thoughts and cognitive processes can be captured by pencil and paper is the basic essence of sketching. Engineers and architects alike have long been used sketching as a tool for documenting mental processes, organizing ideas, creating plans, and presenting their ideas to others via a comfortable medium. The authors present a sampling of literature to remind all that sketching helps the designer work through his or her own cognitive processes in a self- documenting fashion. This paper reports on the sketching habits of capstone design students at The University of Maryland, College Park in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Student sketching skills were assessed using skill-based coding schemes and a content-based coding scheme. A sketching importance lesson was given to students of one capstone design course section and results in their sketching of project concepts were analyzed and compare to a control group made up of another section. The sketching importance lesson focused on the value of sketching for design not on how to sketch. A significant finding was that the sketching importance lesson changed the type of sketches produced; the number of sketches produced by the students (a reduction), and increased the number of details within sketches.

Key Words: sketching, cognition, engineering education, design documentation

1.0 Introduction

A survey of the panorama of mechanical engineering curricula reveals that the use of sketching in the design process is vanishing. Students and instructors alike are drawn towards the latest technological instruments for mechanical design. The enthusiastic adoption of CAD software in engineering education left skills like pencil sketching, mechanical drawing and lettering back in the last century. This is unfortunate because a preponderance of research literature on sketching reports that the intentional use of sketching improves the mechanical engineering design process.[2] There is also a renewed appreciation of the link between sketching and creativity. This is put succinctly by McCormick writing in the ASME monthly, Mechanical Engineering. “Sketching is the tool for innovation, and is so vital to the engineering process that it should be taught and used as an essential part of engineering education and professional practice”. [3]

The human mind is a complex system closed to typical forms of experimental observation of its operations. Documenting and analyzing its internal workings during design may seem to be an impossible task. However, researchers have found that sketches and design journals can provide much insight into the student’s cognitive processes during design. [4-6] Research methods are required that can be applied to individual student design assignments to determine their level of design process understanding.

Westmoreland, S., & Grenier, A., & Schmidt, L. (2009, June), Sketching During Mechanical Design: Studying Sketching At The University Of Maryland Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5423

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