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Using Physical Models in Improving Low Visualizers' Spatial Visualization Skills

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Engineering Design Graphics Division Technical Session 3: Spatial Visualization

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

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Paper Authors


Lei Gu Georgia State University

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Dr. Gu is an Engineering Assistant Professor at Georgia State University. She is a Georgia Tech Regents’ Engineering Pathway Program (REPP) coordinator. Dr. Gu has a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from Shanghai Jiaotong University, MS Degree in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University, MS Degree in Computer Science and Ph.D. in Material Science and Engineering from Norfolk State University. Her research interests include scientific visualization and engineering education.

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Spatial Visualization skills are essential for successes in engineering education. These skills can be improved in engineering design graphics education. Due to multiple factors, engineering design graphics education has evolved from manual drafting technique to more computer aided design oriented education. Improving engineering students’ spatial visualization skill heavily depends on isometric pictorials in engineering graphics textbooks and 3D modeling software. Meanwhile, recent research reports that low visualizers cannot significantly increase their examination scores with extra practice in engineering design graphics courses. Two engineering graphics design courses are offered to engineering students at a two-year college that is embedded in a four-year public institution. Engineering Graphics & Design I is the first course in a two-course sequence. Topics include but are not limited to fundamentals of engineering graphics: including orthographic projection and 2D drawing using AUTOCAD. Engineering Graphics & Design II introduces the principles of computer-assisted graphics and engineering design, with an emphasis on 3D modeling techniques, using Inventor. This paper discusses how to improve students’ spatial visualization skills by using physical models to produce orthographic views. The target group for this study is engineering students in two-year college who are deficient in spatial visualization skills. Subsequently, they perform poorly in both Engineering Graphics & Design I & II courses. Low visualizers are identified based on their score (less than 75%) on the first orthographic projection examination. Premade plastic physical models which include typical 3D features such as normal surfaces, inclined surfaces, oblique surfaces and hidden surfaces/lines are offered to students who volunteer to participate for these extra hands-on activities. Students who take the assignments seriously show dramatic increases in their final examination scores. This paper describes the methodology of the study and outcome of hands-on activities by using physical models to improve spatial visualization skills.

Gu, L. (2017, June), Using Physical Models in Improving Low Visualizers' Spatial Visualization Skills Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29085

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