NEED: The Cybersecurity for Additive Manufacturing (CSAM) project is creating a novel CSAM curriculum thread in a Mechanical Engineering program using virtual reality (VR) technology as an educational tool. GUIDING QUESTIONS: In addition to training engineering students in relevant industrial skills, the researchers hypothesize that VR promotes computational thinking (CT) and thereby improves engineering students’ ability to think critically and solve problems. Understanding and applying engineering graphics is needed to produce computer drawing files for additive manufacturing. Engineering graphics visualization is a spatial reasoning skill associated with CT. First-year students exposed to traditional classroom engineering graphics instruction and assignments are subsequently exposed to graphics concepts using VR tools. Learning outcomes related to graphics visualization are assessed pre- and post-VR exposure. Another project research question is how do we tailor VR modules in an engineering curriculum to be effective at different levels of fidelity? This is partially gauged using the CT scales survey developed by the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE). All students enrolled in a first-year engineering course at the University were surveyed to gain an understanding of their level of exposure to VR and additive manufacturing education. Understanding the students’ level of experience with VR and additive manufacturing at the beginning of the students’ engineering curriculum is key to developing modules that are relevant to building CT skills using VR and additive manufacturing as the student progresses through the curriculum. OUTCOMES: The objective of this study is to inform the researchers and mechanical engineering faculty of students’ level of exposure to and experience with VR and additive manufacturing, and to determine if there is correlation between level of exposure, initial CT scale ratings and student readiness for an engineering curriculum. Student readiness is defined by student high school GPA and ACT scores. BROADER IMPACTS: Early conclusions are informing the development of modules using VR activities for upper-level mechanical engineering courses.
Albertha Lawson, Karen Crosby, Patrick Mensah, Yasser Ismail, and Brian Warren; Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana