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Spatial Reasoning Difference between Civil and Mechanical Engineering Students in Learning Mechanics of Materials Course: A Case of Cross-sectional Inference

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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

MET Papers 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Oai Ha Western Carolina University

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Dr. Oai Ha is currently an Assistant Professor in mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University. He was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at the Oregon State University, working in the Engineering Cognition Lab on several engineering education research projects. He holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Utah State University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Technology in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. His research interests include building energy efficiency, computer simulations, spatial visualization skills, educational data mining, learning analytics, and cognitive processes in engineering design and problem-solving.

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Shane A. Brown P.E. Oregon State University Orcid 16x16

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Shane Brown is an associate professor and Associate School Head in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. His research interests include conceptual change and situated cognition. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2010 and is working on a study to characterize practicing engineers’ understandings of core engineering concepts. He is a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Engineering Education.

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Despite the fact that Mechanics of Materials (MM) course is laden with spatial concepts, the role of spatial skills in the learning of MM course has not been investigated adequately. This study investigated the relationship between students’ performances of the MM course measured by the Mechanics of Material Concept Inventory Test and their cross sectioning ability measured by the Santa Barbara Solids Test. Participants are the freshman and sophomore students mostly majoring in civil and mechanical engineering (CE and ME) at six colleges across the United States. While CE and ME students performed almost equally on the two tests, the correlations between MMCI and SBST and its subtest scores on vertical cuts of joined objects and oblique cuts of simple objects were higher for CE than for ME students. As the results, the percentages of variance explained by cross-sectioning abilities in the performance of Mechanics of Materials course were higher for CE than for ME students. It was interpreted that a good cross-sectional reasoning skill is more important in learning the MM course for CE students than it is for ME students. Implications for instructions and future research included infusing proper spatial training activities in the course to improve students’ success and using SBST and its sub-tests to predict students’ learning outcomes of MM and other similar courses.

Ha, O., & Brown, S. A. (2017, June), Spatial Reasoning Difference between Civil and Mechanical Engineering Students in Learning Mechanics of Materials Course: A Case of Cross-sectional Inference Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28836

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