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Spatial Visualization Skills Intervention for First-year Engineering Students: Everyone’s a Winner!

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 6: Hands-on Projects and Spatial Skills

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1390.1 - 26.1390.9



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Paper Authors


S. Patrick Walton Michigan State University

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S. Patrick Walton received his B.ChE. from Georgia Tech, where he began his biomedical research career in the Cardiovascular Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. He then attended MIT where he earned his M.S. and Sc.D. while working jointly with researchers at the Shriners Burns Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. While at MIT, he was awarded a Shell Foundation Fellowship and was an NIH biotechnology Predoctoral Trainee. Upon completion of his doctoral studies, he joined the Stanford University Genome Technology Center, receiving an NIH Kirschstein post-doctoral fellowship. He joined Michigan State University in 2004 and his research is focused on the development of parallel analytical methods and the engineering of active nucleic acids (e.g., siRNAs) through mechanism-based design. He has been recognized for his accomplishments in both teaching and research, receiving the MSU Teacher-Scholar award, the College of Engineering Withrow Teaching Excellence Award, and being named an MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow.

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Mark Urban-Lurain Michigan State University

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Mark Urban-Lurain is an Associate Professor and Interim Director of the Center for Engineering Education Research at Michigan State University.

Dr. Urban-Lurain is responsible for teaching, research and curriculum development, with emphasis on engineering education and, more broadly, STEM education.

His research interests are in theories of cognition, how these theories inform the design of instruction, how we might best design instructional technology within those frameworks, and how the research and development of instructional technologies can inform our theories of cognition. He is also interested in preparing future STEM faculty for teaching, incorporating instructional technology as part of instructional design, and STEM education improvement and reform.

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Amanda Idema Michigan State University


Timothy J Hinds Michigan State University

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TIMOTHY J. HINDS is the Academic Director of the Michigan State University College of Engineering CoRe (Cornerstone Engineering and Residential) Experience program and a Senior Academic Specialist in the Department of Engineering Undergraduate Studies. His current teaching and management responsibilities include development, delivery and administration of first-year courses in engineering design and modeling. He has also taught courses in machine design, manufacturing processes, mechanics, computational tools and international product design as well as graduate-level courses in engineering innovation and technology management. He has conducted research in the areas of environmentally-responsible manufacturing, globally-distributed engineering teaming and early engineering education development and has over 30 years of combined academic and industrial management experience. He received his BSME and MSME degrees from Michigan Technological University.

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Daina Briedis Michigan State University

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DAINA BRIEDIS is a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University and Assistant Dean for Student Advancement and Program Assessment in the College of Engineering. Dr. Briedis is involved in several areas of education research including student retention, curriculum redesign, and the use of technology in the classroom. She has been involved in NSF-funded research in the areas of integration of computation in engineering curricula and in developing comprehensive strategies to retain early engineering students. She is active nationally and internationally in engineering accreditation and is a Fellow of ABET and of the AIChE.

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Spatial Visualization as a Predictor of PersistenceThe connection between spatial visualization skills and performance in engineering courseworkis becoming more evident. At [large Midwestern public university], we have implemented spatialvisualization assessment, with support from the Engage Engineering project, for all members ofour first-year engineering class. During academic year 2013-2014, the assessment, specificallythe Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Rotations (PVST: R), was undertaken as part of [designcourse], our introductory design course. Then, beginning in the summer of 2014, students wereasked to complete the assessment prior to attending the pre-Fall academic orientation program.Students in both of these groups performing below 60% on the assessment were stronglyencouraged to participate in a support course, either as an extension of [design course](Academic Year 2013-2014) or as a separate course (Fall Semester, 2014).To date, over 2,000 students have completed the assessment over the last two years. This samplesize has allowed us to begin to identify data trends that will guide our efforts at engaging andretaining these students in engineering. As has been shown previously, female students, onaverage, have lower scores on the spatial assessment than male students (Males N=1632,Mean=22.84, Females N=392, Mean=20.29, p< .001)However, female students outperformed their male colleagues in both [design course] (Males N=1171, Mean = 3.53, Females N=269, Mean = 3.76, p<.05), female “leavers” performequally to their “persister” counterparts (EGR N=199, Mean 19.78, Non-EGR N=53,Mean=19.68, n.s.). This suggests that the reasons for leaving may be different in these groups,which could also guide our future retention strategies. We are currently examining additionaldata to identify any correlations that exist between spatial assessment performance and generalstudent self-efficacy. The paper will expand on these findings.

Walton, S. P., & Urban-Lurain, M., & Idema, A., & Hinds, T. J., & Briedis, D. (2015, June), Spatial Visualization Skills Intervention for First-year Engineering Students: Everyone’s a Winner! Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24727

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