Research Project and Goals
For 10 weeks this summer I worked with Dr. Hammond, and at least 15 other undergrad and grad students on creating an educational program for use in introductory civil and mechanical engineering courses. When the summer started it was known as the Civil Engineering Sketch Workbook (CivilSketch), by the end of the summer the working title had changed to "Mekanix." The program is to be tested in the classroom in the Fall of 2010.
Professors want to have students learn about trusses through sketching diagrams. However, intro courses are often very large, and sketches take are time consuming to grade. As a result, it is extremely difficult for professors and teaching assistants to provide students with constructive, timely feedback on assignments involving sketched diagrams. Mekanix addresses the dilemma presented by time constraints. Using free-sketch techniques, it can recognize hand-drawn truss diagrams. By comparing recognized student sketches to recognized instructor sketches, it can provide immediate, incremental feedback.
The project involves many different areas of expertise. While I did work a little with the actual sketch recognition, and a little more with the answer checking, I spent the majority of my summer on the user interface. A major goal of the project was to create a program that allowed its users to focus on learning the engineering concepts rather than software-specific tools. Towards this end, we did our best to avoid the traditional tool-based model and instead aimed to imitate as closely as possible the experience of working with pen and paper.
To sum that up, our goal was to create a working program that was easy to learn and use and could provide immediate feedback on hand-drawn truss diagrams.