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Spatial ability, which is positively correlated with retention and achievement in engineering, mathematics, and science disciplines, has been shown to improve over the course of a Computer-Aided Design course or through targeted training. However, whether increases in spatial ability are obtained from freshman to senior years simply by completing courses in an engineering curriculum has not been investigated. Furthermore, whether the spatial ability of undergraduate students affects their choice of engineering major has not been studied. To provide data with respect to these questions, portions of the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test (PSVT) were administered to freshman and senior students from various engineering disciplines within a College of Engineering and Physical Science (CEPS). In addition, a self efficacy test, which was developed to assess the self confidence of students related to spatial tasks, was also administered. Data analysis showed that spatial ability, while an important parameter for retention and achievement, does not affect the choice of major for engineering students. The data indicated that the spatial ability of students in engineering majors which rely more heavily on spatial ability skills (e.g. mechanical engineering) improved more than other engineering majors.
Date of Conference: 10-13 Oct. 2007