La Trobe researchers are examining the spatial visualisation abilities of Prosthetics and Orthotics students, an essential skill needed for their future roles in the digital era.
“Prosthetic and orthotic devices have traditionally been manufactured using manual techniques and processes. However, with advances in technology, our profession is seeing a significant increase in the use of computer-aided design and manufacture to produce these devices,” says Dr Aileen Wong, Lecturer in Prosthetics and Orthotics.
To adopt and effectively use these new digital technologies, prosthetists and orthotists need to have adequate spatial visualisation abilities.
“Spatial visualisation is a cognitive skill that enables us to mentally rotate or manipulate two- and three-dimensional objects in different orientations in our mind,” explains Dr Wong.
“It is an essential skill for professions that are engaged with digital design and manufacturing, such as engineering, and is now becoming an essential skill for prosthetists and orthotists. This is because the digital process removes the ability to physically touch and modify a device which now only appears in a digital workspace on a computer screen.”
Dr Wong says the spatial visualisation abilities of those in STEM disciplines has been extensively researched but has yet to be studied in prosthetics and orthotics students or clinicians.
“Given the importance of spatial visualisation abilities for our future prosthetics and orthotics workforce, this was a glaring gap in the research that needed to be addressed.”
“Through our research project, we want to know how the spatial visualisation ability of prosthetics and orthotics students compares with those from other fields and if our prosthetics and orthotics courses are developing this essential skill in our students.”
The research project, in partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast, will be a longitudinal study examining the spatial visualisation ability of students at the start and end of their Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics degree.
“La Trobe University and the University of the Sunshine Coast are currently the only universities in Australia that offer a Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics degree,” says Dr Wong.
“By joining forces, we will be able to recruit enough students for an adequately powered study to determine if the Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics courses provided in Australia improve the spatial visualisation ability of students.”
“Our findings will help us to understand if students are receiving sufficient training to improve their spatial visualisation ability so that they are graduating with this essential skill for their future careers as prosthetists and orthotists in the digital era.”