Assessing the 3D Visualisation Skills of Engineering Students and Developing Techniques for Support

Year: 2012
Editor: Lyndon Buck, Geert Frateur, William Ion, Chris McMahon, Chris Baelus, Guido De Grande, Stijn Verwulgen
Author: Mark Milne, Richard Morris, Derek Covill, Tim Katz
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Brighton, United Kingdom
Section: Design Methods - Modelling
Page(s): 047-052
ISBN: 978-1-904670-36-0


The aim of this study was to investigate the 3D visualisation skills of a group of engineering students undertaking a first year BEng course in Mechanical Engineering, and in particular a module in Computer Aided Engineering and Design. It had been noted that some students arrive on the engineering course with a mix of abilities in drawing and visualisation, and that difficulties in spatial visualisation proved to be a barrier for progress for some students.
Difficulties in visualising objects in 3D can lead to issues in interpreting and creating engineering drawings and components, as well as problems visualising forces, effects and other concepts relating to the physical world.
A study was carried out using a standardized test to assess the students’ competence in spatial visualisation. The scores were analysed and a group of students identified with potential problems. Study materials, Solidworks models and physical models were used to support the students in additional sessions to assess the nature of their difficulties, and improve their competence in this area. Periodic formative assessments were carried out to look for improvements and gauge the effectiveness of the support. The results provided clear tools for assessment and support for future teaching.

Keywords: Improving spatial visualisation, 3D visualisation


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