Using Natural Sketch Recognition Software to Provide Instant Feedback on Statics Homework (Truss Free Body Diagrams): Assessment of a Classroom Pilot Conference Paper uri icon


  • American Society for Engineering Education, 2015. Engineering students in large classes receive far too little feedback on hand-sketched Free Body Diagrams (FBDs.) Despite the importance of these diagrams for engineering education and practice, large class sizes often make providing detailed paper-based feedback impractical. Such issues are even further strained in MOOC classes. Relatively recently, computing technology has become powerful enough to enable instantaneous, detailed feedback on hand-sketched engineering diagrams. Researchers have recently developed the free "Mechanix1" sketch recognition tutoring system for free body diagrams (FBDs) and trusses. The Mechanix online software provides instantaneous and detailed feedback using a natural sketch recognition engine2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. This paper describes the process and results of piloting the Mechanix software at a primarily undergraduate university. The experimental group included 39 students in a Statics class, contrasted with a similar class of 34 as a control group. Students in the experimental group completed the Mechanix tutorial and then worked 4 truss problems with instantaneous and unlimited online feedback regarding the accuracy of their free-body diagram drawing and numerical answers. The control group used commonly available online software giving feedback only on numerical answers. Results included here include student attitudes towards technology, online homework scores, class test scores, and self-reported perceptions of the software efficacy. Both quantitative learning outcomes and qualitative comments from users suggest the software system is effective and has great potential if further developed. Students in the experimental group performed as well as the control group, more than 90% of students chose to use the new software (rather than opt-out), and most students self-reported a positive learning experience.

name of conference

  • 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition Proceedings

published proceedings

  • 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition Proceedings

author list (cited authors)

  • Green, M., Caldwell, B., Helms, M., Linsey, J., & Hammond, T.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Green, Matthew||Caldwell, Benjamin||Helms, Michael||Linsey, Julie||Hammond, Tracy

publication date

  • June 2015