Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Karthik Ramani

Committee Chair

Karthik Ramani

Committee Member 1

Jitesh H. Panchal

Committee Member 2

Tahira N. Reid


A full range of experimental methodologies split between two distinct yet related projects was performed in an effort to define ways to automate STEM learning in artful-inspired play. Both projects aim to offer impactful learning experiences through artful-inspired activities meant to automate STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) learning in children that are both scientifically and non-scientifically inclined. By participating in play that is both fun and engaging, learning is a byproduct of the activity which acts to automatically embed STEM knowledge and experiences within the user. Bridging the gap between STEM and artistic tendencies has the potential to provide a multi-faceted learning experience that could attract non-traditional STEM candidates, such as children with a passion for drawing. The first project presents the concept and initial prototype of a color-driven tangible learning environment that teaches mathematics, while the second project presents the preliminary results of longitudinal study conducted to analyze how children use hand-drawn sketching to expand and facilitate their design thinking for STEM-based activities.

The Math Bright Blocks introduce a gaming module that intends to cognitively color code mathematical operations and automate STEM learning by achieving increased interest, cognitive speed, and excitement in children with regards to the field of mathematics. Conception, design, construction, and initial testing of the module were performed to innovate a new cross-cutting approach to education. However, through careful consideration, it was determined that the color space is too much of an unexplored arena and that additional theoretical frameworks and testing approaches are necessary for constructing an appropriate testing environment for color and its implications for children.

Lastly, the ways children use sketching methods to communicate design ideas during a variety of activities in the Purdue sponsored GERI Toy Design Lab in Mechanical Engineering, including how color is utilized to communicate ideas, were evaluated. The activities that this observational research focuses on are those that purposefully implemented hand sketching; Marshmallow Tower, Sketching Workshop, and the NERF Blaster challenge. With only 17 participants, there are not enough data points to be able to offer any type of meaningful statistical significance. Therefore, this work acts to establish a foundation built upon initial observation on which future in-depth sketching analyses can be facilitated. Observations of the participants offered mixed results. The participants did not use sketching for iterative design, but suggested in the respective survey materials that sketching was important for design planning. Additionally, observations made during the NERF Blaster challenge suggest that children need a physical representation to visualize in order to be fully engaged in sketching for design. Color was rarely used to facilitate design communication, and when used, colors were seemingly chosen based on real-world representations.