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  1. Engineering design involves intensive visual-spatial reasoning, and engineers depend upon external representation to develop concepts during idea generation. Previous research has not explored how our visual representation skills influence our idea generation effectiveness. A designer’s deficit in sketching skills could create a need for increased focus on the task of visual representation reducing cognitive resources available for the task at hand – generating concept. Further, this effect could be compounded if designers believed that their sketching skill would be evaluated or judged by their peers. This evaluation apprehension could cause additional mental workload distracting from the production of idea generation. The goal of this study is to investigate and better understand the relationship between designers’ sketching skills and idea generation abilities. In this paper, we present preliminary results of the relationship between independent measures of sketching skill and idea generation ability from an entry-level engineering design and graphics course. During data collection, task instructions were given in two ways to independent groups: one group was instructed upfront that sketching would be evaluated, while the second group was kept blind to the sketch evaluation. In this paper, we also examine the potential priming effects of sketch quality evaluation apprehension on idea generation productivity. The results show that sketching quality and idea quantity are largely independent, and that the priming effects of sketch evaluation instructions are small to negligible on idea generation productivity. 
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  2. Freehand sketching equips engineers to represent ideas rapidly in the design process, but most engineering curriculums fall short of equipping students with adequate sketching skills. This paper is focused on methods to improve engineers’ sketching skill through type of instruction, length of instruction, and delivery of and feedback for assignments using Sketchtivity, an intelligent sketch-tutoring software. We answer several key questions for providing better sketching education for engineers. Does perspective training improve freehand drawing ability? Can an intelligent tutoring software improve education outcomes? And how much sketching instruction is necessary for engineers? Analyzing the changes in sketching skill from pre- to post-sketching instruction between different instruction types (n = 116), we found that perspective sketching instruction significantly improved freehand sketching ability compared to traditional engineering sketching methods. When comparing pre to post sketching skill of students using Sketchtivity (n = 135), there was no significant difference in improvement between students using the intelligent tutoring software and those that exclusively practiced on paper – both groups improved equally. However, completing sketching tasks on tablets did not hinder students’ skill development even when measured on paper. Future work will more directly explore the influence of Sketchtivity on sketching skill development. Additionally, we found that five weeks of sketching instruction greatly improves sketching skill compared to only three weeks of instruction (n = 108), but both approaches significantly improve sketching self-efficacy. These outcomes support more extensive sketching instruction in engineering classrooms, and changes in instruction type to promote more freehand sketching skills. 
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