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App Strengthens Spatial-Visualization Skills

As engineers, we visualize the shape of a device in our mind before we build it. This is spatial visualization, and it's important for science and technology careers. While many children pickup spatial visualization skills-while playing with construction toys for instance-others struggle. On average, women perform lower on standardized visualization tests. To address this issue, researchers at Michigan Tech University developed a spatial visualization course.

Enter Nate Delson, a beloved teacher and lecturer in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Jacobs School. Seeing so many of his students using iPads to take lecture notes, he realized tablets could be a perfect platform for teaching spatial visualization. With funding from UC San Diego's Qualcomm Institute, a team of programmers, faculty, and student workers developed an iPad App which teaches students how to sketch 2D and 3D shapes with their fingertip or stylus, which is important for learning spatial visualization. "The advantage of sketching on a tablet computer over a piece of paper is that we automatically grade the users' sketch and give them immediate feedback," said Delson.

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