This time it’s not back to the drawing board…

| July 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

For a number of years, the question has often been raised about a possible CAD examination for Engineering Graphics and Design, as the content and nature of the subject incorporates so many of the CAD elements. The answer has, however, always been the same; “……not all the schools have computers or the software available to make this a fair option”. In a sense, this is true and unfortunately in my opinion, this will always remain a restraining factor. There are, however, a multitude of schools that do have the technology, resources and the software and who have invested heavily in the infrastructure and as a result, are being held captive by their own success.

Trying to work around this is a great challenge indeed! We are all aware of the change that technology has brought about in our schools and this will inevitably escalate tremendously in the near future. Our country invests heavily in this realm and yet we often find ourselves just a few metres behind and playing ‘catch up’ to the rest of the world and not often enough do we set the pace through our own innovative means. In this regard, many schools have introduced and used CAD very successfully and their learners are reaping the rewards of these efforts. When studying Engineering at a tertiary institution for instance, CAD is part and parcel of the course and the learners that have been exposed to CAD have an enormous advantage over their peers. In itself, CAD opens up many career opportunities and the earlier this exposure is initiated, the greater the rewards and successes in the long term.

At present, EGD learners write two examination papers, both of which, by using instruments on a drawing table and in a designated drawing centre. The proposal is to introduce a third paper, completed exclusively on computer with the aid of the appropriate software. As all the schools and learners do not have the necessary resources available, this will be an optional paper – similar to the Paper 3 in Mathematics. Learners within a school can decide whether they want to commit to such a paper and this could then be scheduled in their normal examination timetable. An additional certificate could be awarded in this regard, outlining the software that was used, as well as the specific competency level as assessed by the examiner. When applying at a tertiary institution for certain studies, this certificate may become an immensely valuable tool of reference.

To simplify the syllabus, the present learning outcomes and content could remain the same as applied to the instrument drawings. The questions in the proposed paper would almost be a duplicate of the original examination questions, the difference being, that the answers would be completed using the appropriate software and not drawing instruments. Answers could then be printed in the appropriate format and size and saved electronically for the examiner to mark, with the added benefit of being able to scrutinise a drawing in minute detail if needed.

Many schools have in some shape or form used CAD extensively in formulating their tests and assignments, and the challenge is to introduce and formalise this into an examination of some sort that would raise the profile of the subject even more. The Pretoria cluster for EGD has embarked on a “trial” examination in this regard so that the seeds can at least be planted and to test the stormy waters and the logistical problems that are inevitable in an endeavour like this. There are many educators in other schools with similar ideas and proposals and any feedback and input would be greatly appreciated. Hopefully, after these seeds have germinated successfully, this proposal can be forwarded to the relevant authorities to be discussed in detail and successfully implemented in the near future. Any suggestions from schools and educators are most welcome and can be sent to f.dutoit@cornwall.co.za or posted on the EGD site (iebegd@googlegroups.com) where general issues around the subject are discussed.

Sometimes success needs those small and steady steps, and sometimes it needs a bold lunge into the unknown…

As Arthur Clarke once remarked: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

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