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Enhancing Spatial Visualization Skills


Blueprints play a critical role in industry today, and there is a need for skilled personnel to interpret them. As an elementary yet vital component of a technician’s training regime, blueprint instruction could be improved through an understanding of the exact nature of the tasks involved in the process. To address this need, the goal of this research is to understand the spatial visualization strategies adopted by an expert while reading blueprints of mechanical parts.

The research team at CUCWD is conducting ethnographic studies and contextual inquiries to understand the issues faced by technical college students while learning the skill of blueprint reading. The goal of this pilot study is to understand the effectiveness and efficacy of computerized visualization and simulation tools to teach blueprint reading skills.

In this study, Tobii T60 eye tracking equipment was used to monitor the expert’s eye gaze movements as he read a set of blueprints coupled with a retrospective think aloud protocol to better understand the strategies used. Based on this information, a hierarchical task analysis was developed and the results showcased the structured objective approach employed by the expert. It was also observed that for the spatial visualization, two views were simultaneously taken and then mentally flipped to convert one into the other. Future research needs to apply this methodology to a larger population of experts and to study the efficacy of using the results of the task analysis in the formulation of an online intervention tool.

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