Intelligent Robot Learning Laboratory (IRL Lab) Computer-Aided Design Intelligent Tutoring System Teaching Strategic Flexibility

By: Yang Hu, and Matthew E. Taylor

Taking a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) class is a prerequisite for Mechanical Engineering freshmen at many universities, including ours. To make the learning process easier and more interesting, we designed and implemented a tutorial for an open source CAD program, FreeCAD, to teach students how to use Boolean operations to construct complex objects from multiple simple shapes. Instead of teaching a single method to construct a model, the program first automatically learns all possible ways to construct a model and then can teach the student multiple ways to make the 3D model. [1, 2]

[1] [pdf] Yang Hu and Matthew E. Taylor. A Computer-Aided Design Intelligent Tutoring System Teaching Strategic Flexibility. Transactions on Techniques for STEM Education, October–December 2016.
[Bibtex]
@article{2016STEMTransactions-Yang,
author={Hu, Yang and Taylor, Matthew E.},
title={{A Computer-Aided Design Intelligent Tutoring System Teaching Strategic Flexibility}},
journal={{Transactions on Techniques for {STEM} Education}},
month={October--December},
year={2016},,
abstract={Taking a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) class is a prerequisite for Mechanical Engineering freshmen at many universities, including at Washington State University. The traditional way to learn CAD software is to follow examples and exercises in a textbook. However, using written instruction is not always effective because textbooks usually support a single strategy to construct a model. Missing even one detail may cause the student to become stuck, potentially leading to frustration.
To make the learning process easier and more interesting, we designed and implemented an intelligent tutorial system for an open source CAD program, FreeCAD, for the sake of teaching students some basic CAD skills (such as Boolean operations) to construct complex objects from multiple simple shapes. Instead of teaching a single method to construct a model, the program first automatically learns all possible ways to construct a model and then can teach the student to draw the 3D model in multiple ways. Previous research efforts have shown that learning multiple potential solutions can encourage students to develop the tools they need to solve new problems.
This study compares textbook learning with learning from two variants of our intelligent tutoring system. The textbook approach is considered the baseline. In the first tutorial variant, subjects were given minimal guidance and were asked to construct a model in multiple ways. Subjects in the second tutorial group were given two guided solutions to constructing a model and then asked to demonstrate the third solution when constructing the same model. Rather than directly providing instructions, participants in the first tutorial group were expected to independently explore and were only provided feedback when the program determined he/she had deviated too far from a potential solution. The three groups are compared by measuring the time needed to 1) successfully construct the same model in a testing phase, 2) use multiple methods to construct the same model in a testing phase, and 3) construct a novel model.}
}
[2] [pdf] Yang Hu and Matthew E. Taylor. Work In Progress: A Computer-Aided Design Intelligent Tutoring System Teaching Strategic Flexibility. In Proceedings of the ASEE’s 123rd Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, LA, USA, June 2016.
[Bibtex]
@inproceedings{2016ASEE-Hu,
author={Yang Hu and Matthew E. Taylor},
title={{Work In Progress: A Computer-Aided Design Intelligent Tutoring System Teaching Strategic Flexibility}},
booktitle={{Proceedings of the {ASEE}'s 123rd Annual Conference \& Exposition}},
month={June},
year={2016},
address={New Orleans, LA, USA},
bib2html_pubtype={Refereed Conference},
bib2html_rescat={Intelligent Tutoring System, Multiple solutions},
abstract={Taking a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) class is a prerequisite for Mechanical Engineering freshmen at many universities, including at Washington State University. The traditional way to learn CAD software is to follow examples and exercises in a textbook. However, using written instruction is not always effective because textbooks usually support single strategy to construct a model. Missing even one detail may cause the student to become stuck, potentially leading to frustration.
To make the learning process easier and more interesting, we designed and implemented an intelligent tutorial system for an open source CAD program, FreeCAD, for the sake of teaching students some basic CAD skills (such as Boolean operations) to construct complex objects from multiple simple shapes. Instead of teaching a single method to construct a model, the program first automatically learns all possible ways to construct a model and then can teach the student to draw the 3D model in multiple ways. Previous research efforts have shown that learning multiple potential solutions can encourage students to develop the tools they need to solve new problems.
This study compares textbook learning with learning from two variants of our intelligent tutoring system. The textbook approach is considered the baseline. In the first tutorial variant, subjects were given minimal guidance and were asked to construct a model in multiple ways. Subjects in the second tutorial group were given two guided solutions to constructing a model and then asked to demonstrate the third solution when constructing the same model. Rather than directly providing instructions, participants in the second tutorial group were expected to independently explore and were only provided feedback when the program determined he/she had deviated too far from a potential solution. The three groups are compared by measuring the time needed to 1) successfully construct the same model in a testing phase, 2) use multiple methods to construct the same model in a testing phase, and 3) construct a novel model.}
}