JOTS v26n1 - Scientific Visualization for Secondary and Post-Secondary Education

North Carolina State University's Department of Math, Science, and Technology Education along with Wake Technical Community College's Engineering Technology Division and North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction (Vocational Education Division), sought ways in which to build a strong secondary program in scientific and technical visualization, focusing on the use of sophisticated graphics tools to study mathematics and the sciences. Momentum for this high schoollevel scientific visualization curriculum developed out of a revision of the complete high school technical graphics curriculum used throughout the state ( North Carolina Public Schools, 1997 ). It became clear that a scientific visualization track could both broaden the scope of the current technical graphics curriculum and attract a new group of students to technical graphics.

For the past four years, educators from North Carolina have met to develop and improve a new sequence of courses in scientific and technical visualization. The main goal of these courses is to teach technical graphics to a new audience: science, technology, technical, and pre-engineering students. The courses are designed to reflect a broader application of computer graphics techniques in the workplace and represents a rich area in which technical graphics teachers at all levels of education can be involved. These new courses complement, rather than replace, more mainstream technical graphics courses in architectural and mechanical drafting currently being taught.

While contemporary high school drafting (technical graphics), technology education, and college programs now use sophisticated graphics tools to create two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) wire-frame and solid models, their focus has remained narrow. It is now apparent that changes primarily brought about by advances in technology have created new opportunities to use similar tools to promote and enhance the study of the physical, biological, and mathematical sciences.

These new courses are designed to articulate into scientific visualization and technical graphics curricula at both two-year and four-year colleges and universities through the Tech-Prep initiative. Articulation between schools allows for a broader range of students to have a visual science course count for admission into a college or university. The courses have the potential to replace the fundamental drafting course required for most degrees in engineering and technology.

The proposed student populations taking the scientific visualization courses are traditional vocational track students and pre-college students who plan on studying in scientific, engineering, and technical fields. The graphic tools used in these courses can help students to understand abstract and numerical concepts and understand how these graphic tools are used in the sciences, business and industry, finance, and virtually all major areas of our economy.