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Teaching Free Hand Drawing In Aerospace Engineering

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Topics Related to Assessments and Outcomes

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1359.1 - 12.1359.17



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Paper Authors


Mark Maughmer Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Maughmer received degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois and Princeton. He joined the faculty in Department of Aerospace Engineering at Penn State in 1984. His research activities are analytical, experimental, and computational, and generally involve airfoils, wings, rotors, and wakes.

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Kathy Schmidt University of Texas-Austin

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KATHY J. SCHMIDT is the Director of the Faculty Innovation Center for the College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. In this position, she promotes the College of Engineering’s commitment to finding ways to enrich teaching and learning. She works in all aspects of education including design and development, faculty training, learner support, and evaluation.

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

Teaching Free-Hand Drawing In Aerospace Engineering


Computer-aided-design classes have largely replaced those dealing with engineering drafting, resulting in an often heard criticism by today’s faculty that engineering students are no longer able to express themselves using simple free- hand drawings (sketches). While engineering students are expected to become proficient with modeling packages, they are seldom asked to think visually and communicate visual ideas with art-based freehand drawing. With the right instructor and short weekly exercises, however, the ability to sketch in engineering classes need not be lost. Likewise, free-hand drawing techniques can help students to develop and refine their visualization skills.

In an undergraduate aerospace engineering design class, the professor advocates the use of an art-based approach to help students think at deeper and more creative levels. By his modeling the drawing of airplanes throughout the semester, he talks through essential design components and tries to get the students to focus on seeing and visualizing. In this paper, we will describe the instructional processes he uses, the reasoning behind his approach, student drawing examples (to illustrate abilities at the beginning and end of the semester), student feedback on the drawing process and their perceptions on how it influences their learning, and suggestions on how to implement free-hand drawing techniques into your classes.


Many faculty voice concerns that students are no longer able to sketch or effectively convey their ideas graphically. In aerospace engineering, students’ depictions of aircraft and spacecraft lack detail and sophistication, revealing sketching skills at elementary levels. Yet competent engineers need to be equipped with proficient basic drawing and visualization skills.

As an engineering professor, it was painfully obvious to me that students lacked free hand drawing skills and that these skills are needed for improving their visualization and spatial orientation. Approximately ten years ago, I was tired of hearing “we can’t do this” from my students, and I figured the primary reason that they lacked these skills was simply that no one had ever shown them basic drawing procedures. Since then, I have attempted to do this and have seen dramatic results that followed when sketching is taught just fifteen minutes or so weekly during the course of a semester. Initially, the goal of this effort was simply to provide students with a skill to help them understand their ideas and present them to others.

After years of intuitively teaching free hand drawing skills, I began to explore this issue further. Some research shows that creativity is almost entirely a right-

Maughmer, M., & Schmidt, K. (2007, June), Teaching Free Hand Drawing In Aerospace Engineering Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2068

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