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Sketch Recognition Lab
Director: Dr. Tracy Anne Hammond

Mechanix

Free Body Diagram and Truss Analysis Sketch Workbook


About

Introductory engineering courses within large universities often have annual enrolments exceeding several hundreds of students, while MOOCS and online classes have even larger classes. It is very challenging to achieve differentiated instruction in classrooms with class sizes and student diversity of such great magnitude. In such classes, professors can only assess whether students have mastered a concept by using multiple-choice questions. However, in a multiple choice scenario, students only have to identify the answer rather than create the answer, and the feedback received is only of a binary nature (right or wrong). Additionally, a growing concern among engineering educators is that students are losing both the critical skill of sketched diagrams and the ability to take a real system and reduce it to an accurate but simplified free-body diagram (FBD).

Mechanix is a sketch-based deployed tutoring system for engineering students enrolled in statics courses. Mechanix not only allows students to hand-draw solutions with planar truss and free body diagrams, just as they would with pencil and paper, but it also checks the student’s work against a hand-drawn answer entered by the instructor. It uses sketch recognition to determine both the component shapes and features of the sketched diagram and the relationships between those shapes and features. Mechanix then uses those relationships to determine whether a student’s work is correct and why it is incorrect, enabling Mechanix to return immediate personalized feedback to the student otherwise not possible in large classes. Additionally, because sketching is the preferred mode of problem solving for many professional engineers, producing a tool that utilizes sketching should increase the transfer of skills from the classroom to the real world. Finally, the iterative correction process facilitates student learning. Preliminary results suggest that Mechanix increases homework motivation in struggling students, and have shown that Mechanix is as effective as paper-and-pencil-based homework for teaching method of joints truss analysis. Focus groups have revealed that students believe Mechanix enhances their learning and that they are highly engaged while using it.

Currently, Mechanix can correct three different types of static homework problems: 1) Standard truss problems requiring calculations of method of joints, 2) Free-form free body diagrams, and 3) Creative Design problems. In creative design mode, the student must think creatively to create a viable truss that abides by the constraints. Creative design mode offers an infinite number of possible solutions for the student, and thus presents an interesting recognition problem. Additionally Mechanix contains three different interfaces: 1) the student interface, where the student answers the problem, 2) the instructor question creation interface, where the instructor enters the problem, and 3) the instructor review mode, where the instructor reviews the existing solutions (Figure 5 shows a mockup). To add questions, the instructor simply types the question, uploads an image, draws the answer, and types in the numerical answers. The drawn answer is then compared to the student’s answer for correction. Because the student needs to know where he or she is wrong, Mechanix performs sophisticated analysis on the student’s solution in an attempt to determine where the student has gone wrong. In the case of creative design mode, no solution is drawn, instead only constraints are specified, and Mechanix then uses these constraints to grade the student’s solution. Two types of feedback are given, that of a simple dropdown box, and that of a complete checklist for them to follow. We provide two types of feedback so that the instructor can provide more feedback on initial problems and less later, scaffolding the feedback.

Download & Try It!

User: studentTest / Pass: studentTest User: adminTest / Pass: adminTest

Download the Tutorial!

In this project we develop and adapt the state-of-the-art in free-sketch recognition to create and evaluate an educational tool for improving student learning of free-body diagrams.This tool has been deployed in first-year Fundamentals of Engineering and Statics curricula, creating collaboration between experts in Civil Engineering, Computer Science, and Engineering Education. The main goal of this project is to build a sketch recognition-based learning system that allows learners to draw free-body diagrams as they would naturally, in an unconstrained manner. Free-body diagrams are graphical representations of the forces acting on the components of physical systems, and are applicable to every field of engineering dealing with such systems. This work includes several significant advances in engineering mechanics-based education and in the field of sketch recognition. The learning system has been developed based on user and usability data collected from students and professors who participate in the first-year Fundamentals of Engineering and Statics curricula.The tool has been refined based on user feedback and evaluated in a classroom setting.

Instructor Mode

The instructor can enter answers by drawing the truss or free body diagram and forces. The instructor writes the problem text and can enter a picture related to the problem. There are equation boxes for entering the necessary equations for the answer, and there are panels for entering values of reaction forces, member forces, other input/output forces, and any other extra answers that might not be part of the diagram. The instructor can create multiple assignments and multiple problems per assignment.

Student Mode

Once a student logs in, he or she can select an assignment and begin working. The student will read the problem and proceed to draw the corresponding diagram. The student can then use the pullout notepad to do scratch work in order to obtain the necessary equations and answer values. Then the student will enter the answers into the appropriate answer boxes.

General Recognition

As the user clicks and drags the mouse or tablet pen across the screen, a series of points are registered that form strokes. The program will recognize trusses, arrows, double-ended arrows, axes, and the letters x and y. The power set of all the strokes on the screen are analyzed to determine if any particular combination of strokes forms one of the recognizable shapes. If a shape is recognized, it will become highlighted when the user pans the mouse over it.

Truss Recognition

A truss is a complex shape that can be constructed from a combination of polygons that share common sides. Recognition of trusses is more complicated than recognition of the other shapes handled by the program. Instead of analyzing combinations of strokes, recognition is based on the detection of intersection points. A shortest path algorithm is used to find the smallest possible polygons that can be formed by a set of intersection points. If any of these polygons share an edge with another polygon, they are combined into a truss.

Answer Checking

At any point in time, the student can check his answer by pressing the large check button. The program will compare the student's diagram to the instructor's answer diagram and state anything the student is missing or has wrong. It will also compare the equations and the other answers by comparing the value and units of each answer.

Use Mechanix in YOUR Classroom

To obtain usernames and passwords for you and your students, email us at mechanix_support@googlegroups.com.

Resources and links

Mechanix a how to.mp4
NSF TUES PI conference.pptx
mechanix-with-instructormode.mp4


People

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Chris Aikens; Dr. Funmi Atilola; Dr. Richard Berman; Christopher Blanchard; Eric Botello; Randy Brooks; Federico Burch; Dr. Anthony Cahill; Sabyasachi Chakraborty; Alexis Chuck; Martin Field; Anurag Garg; Dr. Matthew Green; Dr. Tracy Hammond; Nicholas Hanemann; Dr. Michael Helms; Maria Isokpunwu; Siddhartha Karthik; Kourtney Kebodeaux; Dr. Hong-Hoe (Ayden) Kim; Andrew King III; Jung In Koh; Travis Kosarek; Raniero Lara Garduno; Jusung Lee; Dewanna Lewis; Wenzhe Li; Dr. Julie Linsey; George Lucchese; Rhiannon Martinez; Dr. Donald Maxwell; Dr. Erin McTigue; Laura Murphy; Alyssa Nabors; Trevor Nelligan; Cheryl Osterman; Dr. Joshua Peschel; Seth Polsley; Larry Powell; Dr. Manoj Prasad; Jaideep Ray; Alexandra Reynolds; Matthew Runyon; Murat Russell; Paul Taele; David Turner; Dr. Stephanie Valentine; Francisco Vides; Aaron Wolin;

News

 TAMU   2012-07-13
Sketch Recognition Lab researchers honored at IAAI in Toronto:
Researchers in the Sketch Recognition Lab in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University will be honored at the 24th Conference on Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence (IAAI) in Toronto July 22-26. The researchers received the IAAI Innovation Award for the paper, "Mechanix: A Sketch-Based Tutoring System for Statics Course."
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 TAMU   2013-06-06
Computer Science and Engineering students earn honorable mention from CRA:
Sketch Recognition Lab Junior, David Turner, earns CRA Honorable Mention for the Undergraduate Researcher Award. CRA cited Turner for his work on "Mechanix - Free Body Diagram and Truss Analysis Sketch Workbook," a Sketch Recognition Lab (SRL) team project.
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 TAMU   2014-01-14
David Turner named 2014 CRA Undergraduate Research Finalist:
David Turner, computer engineering senior in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, is a Finalist in the Computing Research Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Research Awards for 2014.
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 TAMU   2014-01-31
Dr. Tracy Hammond presents Sketching at Teacher Summit:
Associate Professor Dr. Tracy Hammond, director of the Sketch Recognition Lab in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M, is hosting a workshop session entitled, "Interactive Sketching with Intelligent Educational Applications." "Sketching plays an important part in the learning process for a variety of subjects ranging from science to language," said Dr. Hammond.
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 TAMU   2014-03-10
WIPTTE 2014 starts March 12:
The Workshop on the Impact of Pen and Touch Technology in Education (WIPTTE), coordinated by the Sketch Recognition Lab and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at Texas A&M University, will be hosted on the Texas A&M Campus March 12-15, 2014.
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 TAMU   2014-04-17
CSE students present MECHANIX project:
Raniero Lara-Garduo, a computer engineering Ph.D. student, and Larry Powell, a senior in computer science, both students in the Sketch Recognition Lab in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), were 2nd place winners in two graduate student categories at Student Research Week 2014. They presented their poster, "Enhancing Mechanix - Interface and Algorithms," in Engineering/Architecture and in the Sigma Xi Award for Interdisciplinary Research categories.
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 TAMU   2015-03-30
Sketch Recognition Lab Presents to Texas A&M Computing Society:
On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, Sketch Recognition Lab members Raniero Lara-Garduno, Seth Polsley, Larry Powell, Paul Taele, and David Turner were on hand to present and discuss several of the lab's latest on-going research projects in front of a room-filled audience of students from the Texas A&M Computing Society (TACS), the representative undergraduate student organization for the Department of Computer Science & Engineering. The Sketch Recognition Lab, directed by Dr.Tracy Hammond, was invited by TACS to present to the undergraduate students as part of a series of guest talks and workshops to improve and broaden students' understanding of opportunities that exist in the computing field.
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 TAMU   2015-03-31
Two Summer Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Opportunities with the Sketch Recognition Lab:
Two Research Experience for Teachers (RET) will be available for summer 2015 in the Sketch Recognition Lab, mentored by lab director Dr. Tracy Hammond. The two teachers will contribute to the ongoing NSF EEC project 1129525, titled Collaborative Research: Enabling Instructors to Teach Statics Actively, (PIs Tracy Hammond, Julie Linsey, Erin McTigue, Matthew Green) working with the Mechanix software project in the Computer Science Department at Texas A&M University. Mechanix is a sketch recognition system that automatically corrects students hand-drawn homework assignments for trusses and free body diagrams. The Mechanix software for testing as well as a video tutorial can be downloaded from http://sketchmechanix.com. Applications are dues April 1, 2015.
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 TAMU   2015-07-09
SRL Graduate Students Also Awarded 5 Times in Medicine, Education, and CS at 2015 TAMU Student Research Week!:
The 2015 Student Research Week (SRW) at Texas A&M University began on March 24 and ended with an awards ceremony on March 27. Many students of the Sketch Recognition Lab, directed by Dr. Tracy Hammond, participated. SRL students won 10 awards; 5 awards went to undergraduates (see prior post) and 5 went to graduate researchers. This post describes the graduate awards.
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Awards

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Publications

2016 
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 Hammond, Tracy; Valentine, Stephanie; Adler, Aaron; Payton, Mark. Revolutionizing Education with digital Ink: The Impact of Pen and Touch Technology on Education. Human-Computer Interaction Series. Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 . Springer, April , 2016. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2015 
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 Hammond, Tracy; Valentine, Stephanie; Adler, Aaron; Payton, Mark. The Impact of Pen and Touch Technology on Education. Human-Computer Interaction Series. Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 . Springer, August, 2015. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2015 
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 Valentine, Stephanie; Lara-Garduno, Raniero; Linsey, Julie; Hammond, Tracy. Mechanix: A Sketch-Based Tutoring System that Automatically Corrects Hand-Sketched Statics Homework. In: T. Hammond, S. Valentine, A. Adler, and M. Payton, editors, The Impact of Pen and Touch Technology on Education.. Volume 3, Number 9, Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 New York, NY. Springer, August, 2015. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2015 
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 Matthew Green, Benjamin Caldwell, Michael Helms, Julie Linsey, Tracy Hammond. Using Natural Sketch Recognition Software to Provide Instant Feedback on Statics Homework (Truss Free Body Diagrams): Assessment of a Classroom Pilot. 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Seattle, WA. ASEE, June, 2015. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2015 
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 Nelligan, Trevor; Polsley, Seth; Ray, Jaideep; Helms, Michael; Linsey, Julie; Hammond, Tracy. Mechanix: A Sketch-Based Educational Interface. Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI 2015). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Atlanta, Georgia. ACM, March, 2015. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2014 
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 Atilola, Olufunmilola; Valentine, Stephanie; Kim, Hong-Hoe; Turner, David; McTigue, Erin; Hammond, Tracy; Linsey, Julie. Mechanix: A natural sketch interface tool for teaching truss analysis and free-body diagrams. Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing (AIEDAM). Volume 28, Number 2, Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 . Cambridge University Press, May, 2014. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2013 
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 Valentine, Stephanie; Vides, Francisco; Lucchese, George; Turner, David; Kim, Hong-hoe; Li, Wenzhe; Linsey, Julie; Hammond, Tracy. Mechanix: A Sketch-Based Tutoring and Grading System for Free-Body Diagrams. AI Magazine. Volume 34, Number 1, Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 . AAAI, January, 2013. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2013 
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 Atilola, Olufumilola; McTigue, Erin M.; Hammond, Tracy; Linsey, Julie. Mechanix: Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Sketch Recognition Truss Tutorin Program Against Other Truss Programs. 120th American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition (ASEE). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Atlanta, GA. ASEE, June, 2013. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2012 
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 Li, Wenzhe; Hammond, Tracy. Using Scribble Gestures to Enhance Editing Behaviors of Sketch Recognition Systems. CHI'12 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Austin, TX. ACM, May, 2012. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2012 
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 Valentine, Stephanie; Vides, Francisco; Lucchese, George; Turner, David; Kim, Hong-hoe; Li, Wenzhe; Linsey, Julie; Hammond, Tracy. Mechanix: A Sketch-Based Tutoring System for Statics Courses. Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence Conference (IAAI). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Toronto, Canada. AAAI, July, 2012. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2012 
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 Prasad, Manoj; Hammond, Tracy. Observational Study on Teaching Artifacts Created Using Tablet PC. CHI'12 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Austin, TX. ACM, May, 2012. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2012 
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 Atilola, Olufunmilola; Vides, Francisco; Mctigue, Erin M; Linsey, Julie S; Hammond, Tracy Anne. Automatic Identification of Student Misconceptions and Errors for Truss Analysis. 119th American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition (ASEE). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 San Antonio, TX. ASEE, June, 2012. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2012 
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 Lucchese, George. Sketch Recognition on Mobile Devices. Master's Thesis. Texas A&M University. Advisor Tracy Hammond. Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 College Station, TX. Texas A&M University, December, 2012. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2011 
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 Field, Martin; Valentine, Stephanie; Linsey, Julie; Hammond, Tracy. Sketch Recognition Algorithms for Comparing Complex and Unpredictable Shapes. Proceedings of the Twenty-Second international Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI). Volume 3, Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Barcelona, Spain. AAAI Press, July, 2011. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2011 
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 Atilola, Olufunmilola; Field, Martin; McTigue, Erin; Hammond, Tracy; Linsey, Julie. Evaluation of a Natural Sketch Interface for Truss FBDs and Analysis. Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Rapid City, SD. IEEE, October, 2011. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2011 
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 Valentine, Stephanie; Field, Martin; Smith, A; Hammond, T. A Shape Comparison Technique for Use in Sketch-Based Tutoring Systems. Proceedings of the 2011 Intelligent User Interfaces Workshop on Sketch Recognition (Palo Alto, CA, USA, 2011) . Volume 11, Number 5, Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Palo Alto, CA. IUI, February, 2011. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2011 
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 Atilola, Olufunmilola; Field, Martin; McTigue, Erin; Hammond, Tracy; Linsey, Julie. Mechanix: A Sketch Recognition Truss Tutoring System. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2011 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Volume 7: 5th International Conference on Micro- and Nanosystems; 8th International Conference on Design and Design Education; 21st Reliability, Stress Analysis, and Failure Prevention Conference.. Volume 7, Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Washington, DC. ASME, August, 2011. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352
2008 
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 Peschel, Joshua M; Hammond, Tracy Anne. STRAT: A Sketched-Truss Recognition and Analysis Tool. 2008 International Workshop on Visual Languages and Computing (VLC) at the 14th International Conference on distributed Multimedia Systems (DMS). Notice: Undefined variable: pages in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 339 Boston, MA. Knowledge Systems Instistute, September, 2008. Link Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 352

Sponsors

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Sketch and Gesture Recognition for Collaborative and Design Interfaces on the Surface Hub
Microsoft Surface Hub
2015-07-01 - 2016-06-30, $25,000
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I-Corps: Evaluating the Market Potential of the Mechanix Sketch Recognition Software
National Science Foundation, IIP
2015-07-01 - 2015-12-31, $50,000
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NSF EEC 1129525: Collaborative Research: Enabling Instructors to Teach Statics Actively
National Science Foundation, Engineering Education and Centers
2011-09-01 - 2015-08-31, $509,914
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NSF DUE/CCLI 0942400, Sketched-Truss Recognition Tutoring System
National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education
2010-03-01 - 2013-02-28, $199,769
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Sketch Recognition: Algorithms, Interfaces, and a Platform for Engineering Education and Beyond
Google Research
2010-01-01 - 2012-12-31, $50,000
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NSF EEC 0935219, Civil Engineering Sketch Workbook
National Science Foundation, Engineering Education Centers
2009-10-01 - 2012-09-30, $400,000
PI: Tracy Hammond, CoPIs: Anthony Cahill Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 397
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REU support for the Mechanix project
National Science Foundation, Computing Research Association
2010-09-01 - 2012-08-31, $25,500
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Creative IT 0757557, Pilot: Let Your Notes Come Alive: The SkRUI Classroom Sketchbook
National Science Foundation Creative IT, Cyber-Human Systems
2008-06-01 - 2011-05-31, $247,000
PI: Tracy Hammond, CoPI: Donald Maxwell Notice: Undefined variable: systemismobile in /home/faculty/hammond/web_home/mechanix.php on line 397