June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Design in Engineering Education
22.1501.1 - 22.1501.16
The Role of Spatial-Visual Skills in a Project-Based Engineering Design CourseAlthough spatial-visual skills have been found to be a strong predictor of success in and aptitudefor engineering practice and related technical fields, comparatively little research has beenconducted on its function in engineering coursework, particularly engineering design.Understanding how spatial ability may influence student design work can help educators realizeopportunities to hone students’ spatial-visual skills, especially female students who historicallyscore lower than their male peers on spatial-visual assessments.The purpose of this study was to examine the role of spatial-visual skills in a core undergraduatemechanical engineering design course requiring each student to design and build a robot toaccomplish a complex task. The researchers hypothesized that students with higher spatialabilities would produce more complex designs; as spatial abilities are associated withunderstanding how physical objects can be assembled, students with high spatial ability may bebetter able to understand and design intricate integrated systems. 137 students (79 male, 58female) were administered the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test at the start of the course, andthese results were analyzed with self-assessments of their experience in tasks associated withspatial skills (such as origami and sketching), the complexity of their produced robot, and theirrobots’ performance in the culminating class competition.Similar to prior work, gender differences in scores on the spatial visualization test werestatistically significant. Spatial reasoning and origami experience were positively correlated formale students tested. For all students, the correlation between spatial test score and thepercentage of moving components in a design was found to approach significance with anegative correlation. Spatial test scores did not seem to affect competition performance.However, although not statistically significant, the total number of components and percentageof moving components for a design were negatively correlated with students’ scores in seedingrounds of the competition. These results suggest that while strong spatial-visual abilities maynot directly impact competition performance, they may be used to simplify engineering designrather than increase its complexity.
Tseng, T., & Yang, M. (2011, June), The Role of Spatial-Visual Skills in a Project-Based Engineering Design Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18466
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