Examining the interaction of spatial visualization ability and computer-aided design and manufacturing course performance
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American Society for Engineering Education, 2015. Computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) tools are ubiquitous in the modern product commercialization environment. Students entering this environment will need to be well skilled in using these tools. One of the key skills associated with both CAD and CAM is spatial visualization. While several studies have examined the relationship between CAD and spatial visualization ability, there has been significantly less work investigating visualization ability's relationship with CAM. A better understanding of the relationship between spatial visualization ability and CAD/CAM course performance as well as the effects of these courses on student visualization ability (through pre- and post-tests) could enhance student performance with these essential tools. This work uses the Revised Purdue Spatial Visualization Tests: Visualization of Rotations (Revised PSVT:R) to assess undergraduate students' spatial visualization ability. The participants of this study are students who have taken a CAM or CAD course at a large southwestern public university. Students' pre- and post-course spatial visualization data from the two courses are compared. In addition, spatial visualization test scores are compared to laboratory exercise performance metrics and other demographic data. Results show that on average, students achieved relatively high scores on the Revised PSVT:R compared to the average scores of first year engineering students in the literature. A positive correlation between the Revised PSVT:R score and performance in both the CAD course and the CAM course are shown. Neither CAD courses nor CAM courses are seen to increase student spatial visualization ability. As students taking those courses are already juniors or seniors who took similar courses before, their high scores on the Revised PSVT:R implies that their spatial ability could already be saturated, meaning little or no room for improvement.