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Spatial Ability in High School Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

High School Students Thinking and Performance

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1171.1 - 25.1171.18



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Paper Authors


Kristin L. Brudigam Lake Travis High School

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Kristin Brudigam is a mathematics and engineering teacher at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. She earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics education from Wayne State College and her master's degree in science education with an emphasis in engineering education from the University of Texas, Austin. Additionally, Brudigam is certified to teach civil engineering/architecture and Introduction to Engineering Design as part of the Project Lead the Way curriculum at Lake Travis High School. Brudigam developed a curriculum entitled "Careers Involving Mathematics" as an undergraduate in the John G. Neihardt Honors program at Wayne State College. More recently, she developed and integrated a student internship program into her Civil Engineering and Architecture class at Lake Travis High School. This program allows students to work closely with local industry partners that provide professional advice to improve the quality of their work and give them a real-world experience in a designated field. Brudigam's research focuses on the differences in spatial ability among high school geometry and engineering students while looking for ways to improve such ability within the classroom.

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Richard H. Crawford University of Texas, Austin

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Richard H. Crawford is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, and is the Temple Foundation Endowed Faculty Fellow No. 3. He received his B.S.M.E. from Louisiana State University in 1982, and his M.S.M.E. in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1989, both from Purdue University. He joined the faculty of UT in Jan. 1990 and teaches mechanical engineering design and geometry modeling for design. Crawford's research interests span topics in computer-aided mechanical design and design theory and methodology, including research in computer representations to support conceptual design, design for manufacture and assembly, and design retrieval; developing computational representations and tools to support exploration of very complex engineering design spaces; research in solid freeform fabrication, including geometric processing, control, design tools, and manufacturing applications; and design and development of energy harvesting systems. Crawford is Co-founder of the DTEACh program, a “Design Technology” program for K-12, and is active on the faculty of the UTeachEngineering program that seeks to educate teachers of high school engineering.

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Spatial Ability in High School StudentsSpatial ability is a skill necessary in a number of disciplines; however, the main emphasis ofeducation of this ability is primarily in engineering education. This study reviewed literatureregarding the development of spatial ability and considered implications for not only engineeringeducation but also mathematics education with specific regard to geometry. The purpose of thisstudy was to observe the differences in spatial ability among high school PreAP Geometrystudents and Introduction to Engineering Design students. The hypothesis states that studentswho are enrolled in both high school PreAP Geometry and Introduction to Engineering Designhave better spatial ability skills than those students who are solely enrolled in PreAP Geometry.Of the 207 students enrolled in geometry at the test school, there was a smaller population(n=57) simultaneously enrolled in an engineering graphics course. No direct or specialintervention was given to either group of students; however, the curriculum between the twoclasses differed greatly. Near the end of the academic year all students were administered thePurdue Visualization of Rotations test (ROT). Results showed that students enrolled in theengineering design class performed better than those students not enrolled in the course.Furthermore, the males outperformed the females when all students were considered. However,there was not a significant difference among the males, nor was there a difference between malesand females within engineering. Further research is needed to understand these differences andhow geometry education plays a role in the development of spatial ability.

Brudigam, K. L., & Crawford, R. H. (2012, June), Spatial Ability in High School Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21928

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