Research has often found that sketching during the design process is a vital tool for communication, idea-generation, and problem solving. Sketching has also been found to be beneficial in developing key skills such as spatial visualization. However, as CAD programs become more prevalent, research has shown that students do not use sketching as often, and fail to use it when it is needed such as for free-body diagrams and to quickly illustrate engineering design concepts. In contrast, sketching and visualization is a noted skill often employed by professional designers and engineers. In recent years, an introduction to engineering visualization course at [a university] has modified the portion of the class dedicated to hand-sketching using pedagogy commonly used in industrial design courses to develop students’ sketching ability and visualization skills. The modified curriculum for teaching sketching education involves instruction on techniques such as sketching in both isometric and perspective spaces, shading, and using proper lighting. Universities face many challenges in implementing this sketching pedagogy including the fact that engineering faculty are typically not familiar with sketching pedagogy and lack training in realistic, quick, perspective product sketch. Even when there are faculty with the appropriate skills, large enrollments severely limit the quality of feedback given to students. To remedy these issues and to provide further insights into AI tools that can interpret sketched-diagrams, an online sketching tutor was developed. This sketching tutor provides real-time feedback using sketch recognition software, allowing the student to continuously improve their technique with less instructor interaction.
This paper presents the impacts of the modified curriculum on students’ ability to sketch, self-efficacy in engineering design, and spatial visualization skills. The study compares three different approaches, (1) a traditional engineering sketching curriculum, (2) a perspective sketching curriculum, and (3) a perspective sketching curriculum with the sketch recognition software. Impact was measured using a pre- and post-course assessment of students using the Revised Purdue Spatial Visualization Tests- Rotation, a variation of the Vandenburg and Kuse Mental Rotation Test, and Design Self-Efficacy by Carberry, et al. Spatial visualization skills have been demonstrated to be critical for student retention in engineering and for many engineering tasks. The assessment also included a standardized sketching quiz. The pre-to-post comparisons of the three conditions showed equal improvements in the spatial visualization and design self-efficacy of the students. However, when only observing students who were initially low-scoring on the spatial visualization assessments, the improvements of students in the modified perspective sketching curriculum were significantly higher than students in the more traditional engineering drawing approach. As expected, the improvements in sketching ability of the students in the modified perspective curricula were higher than the improvements experienced by students in the traditional curriculum. These findings suggest that the modified perspective sketching curriculum maintains the critical spatial visualization skills, which are effectively taught with the traditional engineering curriculum, while also introducing an additional skill without requiring additional student time.
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