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The Role of Observational Sketching in Forming and Manipulating Graphical Libraries

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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

25.1340.1 - 25.1340.16



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Paper Authors

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Diarmaid Lane University of Limerick


AJ Hamlin Michigan Technological University

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AJ Hamlin is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Technological University, where she teaches first year engineering courses, including an Introduction to Spatial Visualization course. Her research interests include spatial visualization and educational methods. She is an active member in the Engineering Design Graphics Division of ASEE and is currently serving as the Associate Editor of the Engineering Design Graphics Journal.

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Norma L. Veurink Michigan Technological University

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Niall Seery University of Limerick Orcid 16x16

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The Role of Observational Sketching in Forming and Manipulating Graphical LibrariesThe ability to externalize libraries of visual mental imagery through freehand sketching is a complexcognitive skill. Lane (2011) devised and empirically validated a model of developmental exerciseswhich ranged along a continuum from observation to imagination. The purpose of the model was topromote freehand sketching as a sense making tool while developing the ability to form, manipulate,synthesize and communicate graphical libraries. The study described in this paper, investigated theeffectiveness of one exercise from the continuum which was called “Enquiry”. The focus of thisexercise was on developing the ability to observationally sketch perspective representations ofphysical, regular geometries using a specially designed “picture plane” device.A total of 276 students across three international universities participated in the study which consistedof two phases. Phase one was carried out at the ________________ with 150 students through agraphics module for undergraduates of initial technology teacher education. The students completed“Enquiry” as part of a three week set of exercises which aimed to develop fundamental freehandsketching skills. Upon completion of “Enquiry”, a feedback mechanism was used to record levels ofstudent motivation and performance. All sketches were recorded and independently examined.Phase two was carried out at _________________ and _______________ with a total of 126 students,all of whom were undergraduate engineers. The purpose of this phase was to build on the findings ofprevious research (Lane et. al 2009 & 2010) within an alternative discipline that depends ondeveloping graphical competencies. The exercise was completed during one class of a fourteen week,first year “Introduction to Spatial Visualization” course. The purpose of “Enquiry” in this instancewas to develop students’ ability to manipulate, explore and communicate different views ofgeometries prior to formally learning about orthographic projection. Observations were recorded bythe class teachers.High levels of student motivation were observed during both phases and the students evidenced aclear understanding of the picture plane and its relationship with perspective drawings. The paperalso reports that a number of ergonomic improvements which were made to the sketching equipment(subsequent to phase one) were beneficial and that these enabled more controlled and reflectiveexploration of complex geometries. The manner in which students completed the activity during bothphases of the study varied. Some students performed the exercise in a slow, controlled and reflectivemanner, resulting in sketches which were precise, with significant levels of exploration evidenced. Incontrast, other students completed the exercise in an automatic and reflexive fashion, resulting in lessdetail being explored but a greater number of views were communicated.The presented study highlights the important role of observational sketching in developing students’understanding of various ways to graphically represent objects. Furthermore, it highlights the critical,intermediate role of observational sketching in forming graphical libraries of visual mental imagerywhich can be retrieved and manipulated during more advanced conceptual, design based activities.

Lane, D., & Hamlin, A., & Veurink, N. L., & Seery, N. (2012, June), The Role of Observational Sketching in Forming and Manipulating Graphical Libraries Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22097

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