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Using Doodles to Assist Learning in Mechanical Engineering Courses

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


John A. Mirth Saint Cloud State University

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John Mirth is an associate professor in the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Department at the St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Prior to this, he had positions at the University of Denver, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the University of Iowa. He obtained his BSME degree from Ohio University and his MSME and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota.

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Engineering courses are traditionally built around lectures, homework, and exams that focus on the formulation and solution of engineering problems. And while problem solving is an essential aspect of engineering education, a strict adherence to problem solving can also limit students in how they view and interact with course information. This paper presents a supplemental technique to add to the way students explore and understand concepts in engineering. The paper looks at the use of drawings, or “doodles” as a means to expand student interaction with course material.

The doodle has been demonstrated to be an effective way to engage the brain in alternative thinking without distracting the doodler from their primary task. The alternative engagement of the brain can provide increases in learning and assist in long-term retention of course material. In addition to this, a doodle can be used to strengthen student engagement in flipped and on-line courses. Finally, the doodling process provides a means by which students can translate engineering information into a universal pictorial representation.

The primary use of doodles in this presentation is to provide students with an initial exposure to course information. Students are asked to interact with course material prior to class time. Depending on the course, the course material may be a reading, course notes, and/or a video as in a flipped course. After the interaction, students are required to create a “doodle” – a pictorial representation – of the information presented in the assigned material.

The doodle format is chosen for several reasons. The first is that the conversion of verbal or written information into a pictorial form requires students to process and translate the course information from a written format into a pictorial format. A second reason is to provide an original means to demonstrate that a student has had some level of interaction with course material prior to coming to class. This increase in interaction comes with only a marginal addition to the grading load in a course. And, finally, a properly engaged doodle provides a means by which students can display their creativity, as shown in several of the doodle examples included within the paper.

A student survey has been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the doodles. The survey results indicate the doodles are effective in their primary task of getting students to interact with course material prior to coming to class. Students also tended to agree with the idea that doodles helped them reflect on course material. Given the option of whether doodles should be a required part of a course, students favored keeping the doodle assignments with more frequent doodling being strongly favored over less frequent or no doodling. Further studies are required to determine if the practice of doodling has any impact on the long-term retention of course information.

Mirth, J. A. (2019, June), Using Doodles to Assist Learning in Mechanical Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33502

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