Detecting students’ "brain waves" during engineering design using a CAD toolDecember 12th, 2012 by Charles Xie
|Design a city block with Energy3D.|
Two types of problems are commonly encountered in the classroom. The first type is related to using a "cookbook" approach that confines students to step-by-step procedures to complete a "design" project. I added double quotes because this kind of project often leads to identical or similar products from students, violating the first principle of design that mandates alternatives and varieties. However, if we make the design project completely open-ended, we will run into the second type of problem: The arbitrariness and caprice in student designs often make it difficult for teachers and researchers to assess student thinking and learning reliably. As much as we want students to be creative and open-minded, we also want to ensure that they learn what is intended and we must provide an objective way to evaluate their learning outcomes.
To tackle these issues, we are taking a computer science-based approach. Computer-aided design (CAD) tools offer an opportunity for us to move the entire process of engineering design to the computer (this is what CAD tools are designed for in the first place for industry folks). What we need to do in our research is to add a few more things to support data mining.
|A sample design of the city block.|
There are four things that characterize such a timeline graph:
|A sample timeline graph.|
- The height of a spike measures the action intensity at that moment, i.e., how many actions the user has taken since the last recording;
- The density of spikes measures the continuity and persistence of actions over a time period;
- A gap indicates an off-task time window: A short idling window may be an effect of instruction or discussion;
- The trend of height and density may be related to loss of interest or improvement of proficiency in the CAD tool: If the intensity (the combination of height and density of spikes) drops consistently over time, the student's interest may be fading away; if the intensity increases consistently over time, the student might be improving on using the design tool to explore design options.
|Timeline graphs from six students.|
The above six "brain wave" graphs were collected from six students in a 90-minute class period. Hopefully, these data will lead to a way to identify novice designers' behaviors and patterns when they are solving a design challenge.