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Title: The Relationship Between Spatial Skills and Solving Problems in Engineering Mechanics
Spatial visualization is defined as the “process of apprehending, encoding, and mentally manipulating three-dimensional spatial forms.” Spatial cognition has been widely studied throughout psychology and education from more than 100 years. Engineering students and engineering professionals exhibit some of the highest levels of spatial skills compared to their counterparts in other majors/careers. Numerous studies have shown the link between spatial skills and success in engineering and interventions aimed at enhancing spatial skills have demonstrated a concomitant improvement in student success, as measured by grades earned and retention/graduation. The question remains: How do well-developed spatial skills contribute to engineering student success? One hypothesis is that spatial skills contribute to a student’s ability to solve unfamiliar problems. Recent studies have demonstrated that spatial skills contribute to success in solving problems from mathematics, chemical engineering, and electrical engineering. The study outlined in this paper, extends this work to examine the impact of spatial skills on the ability to solve problems from engineering mechanics. In this pilot study, a total of 47 students from upper division mechanical engineering courses completed a test of spatial skills and also were asked to solve 5-6 problems from introductory statics/physics. Results showed that a statistically significant positive correlation more » was found between spatial scores and the percent correct on the mechanics test. Individual problems were also examined to determine if spatial skills appeared to play a role in their solution. Some problems appeared to rely on spatial thinking; others did not. Results from this pilot study will be used to conduct an in-depth study examining the relationship between spatial skills and solving problems in engineering mechanics. This paper outlines key findings from this pilot study and makes recommendations for future work in this area. « less
Authors:
; ;
Award ID(s):
1818758
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10302004
Journal Name:
ASEE annual conference proceedings
ISSN:
1524-4857
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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