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Using Touch Interface Technology for Spatial Visualization Training

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Spatial Ability & Visualization Training I

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1351.1 - 24.1351.12



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Paper Authors


Lelli Van Den Einde University of California, San Diego

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Van Den Einde is a Lecturer with Potential Security of Employment (LPSOE) at UCSD. She teaches core undergraduate courses in Structural Engineering, is the chair of the ABET committee responsible for the continuous curricular improvement process, incorporates education innovations into courses (Peer Instruction, Project-based learning), is responsible for TA training (preparing next generation faculty), serves as faculty advisor to student organizations, hears cases of academic misconduct as a member of the Academic Integrity Review Board, and is committed to fostering a supportive environment for diverse students at UCSD by serving on the faculty advisory board for the IDEA Student Center. Her research is focused on engagement strategies for large classrooms and the development of K-16 curriculum in earthquake engineering.

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Nathan Delson eGrove Education

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Nathan Delson’s interests include mechatronics, biomedical devices, human-machine interfaces, and engineering education. He isCo-founder and Past President of Coactive Drive Corp., which develops novel actuators and control methods for use in force feedback human interfaces. Medical device projects include an instrumented mannequin and laryngoscope for expert skill acquisition and airway intubation training. He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, San Diego, and then went on to get a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. He was a lecturer and Director of the Design Studio at Yale University for four years, and then returned to his alma matter, UC, San Diego, in 1999. He is now a tenured lecturer and Director of the Design Center in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He teaches hands-on design courses, including an introductory design class, a mechatronics class, and a capstone design class. His interests in design education include increasing student motivation, teamwork, and integration of theory into design projects.

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Using Touch Interface Technology for Spatial Visualization TrainingSpatial Visualization (SV) is the mental representation and manipulation of 2D and 3D shapes.Skills in SV have been correlated to high GPAs in math, engineering, computer programming,and science, and have been demonstrated as important for success in 84 careers. Yet SV is notformally part of K-12 or traditional undergraduate curriculums. Students with poor SV skillsoften find themselves at a disadvantage resulting in many of them dropping out of STEM majors.A study1 at Michigan Tech showed that only 42% of engineering majors with low SV skillsgraduated in their major. However, through the implementation of a single class in SV training,the retention rate of students with low SV skills increased to 64% (an increase of 52%). Datafrom this and other studies showed that women and other Underrepresented Minorities (URMs)in STEM majors had on average lower SV skills2. Furthermore, research has demonstrated thatthe physical act of sketching is important for learning SV skills. The strong evidence showing theeffectiveness of SV training has led the NSF to fund SV courses at a number of universities3.However, these SV courses use traditional teaching methods such as paper and pencilassignments with a teacher lecturing in front of the classroom. To create a more engaging andmore cost-effective SV training method that can be implemented nationwide, an interactive SVdrawing application was developed using touchscreen interface technology. This paper describesthe development of the Spatial Visualization Trainer (SVT) app and its pilot implementation onundergraduate and high school students. Features of the app and areas for future work will bedescribed.In this pilot study, students were given a standardized SV pre- and post-test to record learninggains, and an end-of-training survey to provide feedback on the usability of the app andattainment of the learning objectives. Although the sample size was low, preliminary resultsshow that after working independently with the app, many of the students who struggled with SVreached a level where they no longer needed training. Students enjoyed using the technologyand said the app was like a game. An automated grading algorithm provides users withinstantaneous feedback on the accuracy of their sketches. Users can peek at the solution or tryagain (see Figure 1), allowing them to complete the exercises at their own pace. When studentscomplete the exercises, they are submitted to a database where instructors can observe studentprogress and success. Future versions of the app will provide additional diagnostics and data toallow instructors to gain insight in how students learn (e.g., How are students going aboutsolving the problems? Are they erasing drawings? Are they peeking at solutions?)With technology changing so rapidly, we are just beginning to explore what can be done withtouch interface in education. SV is a great application for enhancing the educational experiencethrough touch.Figure 1: The Spatial Visualization Trainer (SVT) provides automated grading for instantaneous feedbackReferences: 1. Metz, S., Implementing ENGAGE Strategies to Improve Retention: Focus on Spatial Skills, Presentation at the ASEE Conference, June 11, 2012. 2. Why so Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Published by AAUW, ISBN: 978-1-879922-40-2, Feb 2010 3. ENGAGE: an NSF funded program for engaging students in engineering;

Van Den Einde, L., & Delson, N. (2014, June), Using Touch Interface Technology for Spatial Visualization Training Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23284

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