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Spatial Skills Among Minority and International Engineering 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

Spatial Visualization

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1172.1 - 25.1172.11



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Paper Authors


Sheryl A. Sorby Ohio State University

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Sheryl Sorby is Visiting Professor in the Engineering Education and Innovation Center at the Ohio State University and Professor Emerita of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics at Michigan Technological University. She recently served as Program Director within the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation. She began her academic career on the faculty at Michigan Tech in 1986, starting first as an instructor while completing her Ph.D. degree and later joining the tenure-track ranks in 1991. Sorby is the former Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Engineering and the former Department Chair of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech. Her research interests include graphics and visualization. She has been the Principal Investigator or Co-principal investigator on more than $7 million in external funding, most from the National Science Foundation for educational projects and is the author of numerous publications and several textbooks.

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Norma L. Veurink Michigan Technological University

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Well-developed spatial skills have been shown to be important to success in engineering graphicscourses. Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown significant gender differences in spatial skills.Research conducted at an HBCU among engineering technology students showed that their spatial skillslag significantly behind those of found among engineering students at predominantly white institutions.However, these differences could be due to differences in backgrounds and abilities betweenengineering and engineering technology students, and not due primarily to racial differences. As westrive to diversify engineering education, it will be important to understand how differences in spatialskills could contribute to underrepresentation in engineering. In this paper, we will use data gatheredover a fourteen-year period at a predominantly white institution among first-year engineering studentsto examine differences in spatial skills among majority, minority, and international students. Data will bedisaggregated by gender where feasible. We will also examine data from a background questionnaire todetermine if there are racial or cultural differences in participation in those activities thought to develop3-D spatial skills, including playing 3-D computer games, participation in pre-college drafting or shopcourses, or play with construction toys as a child.

Sorby, S. A., & Veurink, N. L. (2012, June), Spatial Skills Among Minority and International Engineering Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21929

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