Developing 3-D Spatial Visualization Skills


  • Sheryl A. Sorby Michigan Technological University


The development or improvement of 3-D spatial visualization skills is often cited as one of the major goals of engineering design graphics education.  Historically, improvements in spatial skills were achieved as a by-product of a graphics education that often included several semesters of instruction in manual drafting technique.  As the engineering curriculum evolved through time, traditional graphics instruction was "squeezed" from two directions simultaneously.  First and foremost, engineering programs were required to reduce the total number of credits to graduation, often resulting in fewer credits available for graphics instruction.  Second, pressure was exerted on graphics educators to include additional topics such as CAD, design, and creativity in their introductory courses.  Instruction in manual drafting technique was greatly reduced or eliminated altogether in favor of sketching and/or computer applications.  Throughout this evolutionary process, the objectives of graphics education have changed accordingly.  Increased emphasis has been placed on the development of 3-D spatial skills in these courses, however, many graphics educators, who themselves typically have highly developed skills, have had no formal training in understanding spatial skills or how they are effectively developed.  This paper will attempt to answer several questions regarding background information on research in spatial skills and will describe those strategies that graphics educators can adopt to develop these skills in their students.



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