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News Releases @ TCC

Focuses on learning to “manipulate objects in your mind”

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.  (Jan.  21, 2011) – Visualizing in 3-D and moving objects in the mind pose a challenge to many bright students. Women, notably, lack practice in mental geometric shape-shifting, which men experience more with videogames and hands-on projects.

To help students, especially females, improve their mental dexterity, Tidewater Community College is piloting a new program in spatial cognition skills, developed by Michigan Technical University and funded by a Campus Action Project grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

TCC is one of 11 teams from around the country selected by AAUW to address issues raised by AAUW's 2010 research report, “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,which highlights key findings from recent research on women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“We are committed to giving women opportunities for growth in the STEM fields,” says Lonnie Schaffer, associate vice president for college transfer education. “And while studies have shown women to demonstrate lower spatial cognition skills – the ability to manipulate objects in the mind – new data suggest these skills are not determined by gender, but by experiential differences, and can be significantly improved with practice.”

TCC’s spatial cognition program, a structured and collaborative effort, involves students meeting weekly and working in pairs on workbook and web-based sessions. Thirty students will be selected from TCC’s Engineering Graphics and Introduction to Engineering courses, along with female student volunteers studying engineering or related fields.

Faculty members will test spatial cognition levels at the beginning and the end of the program to determine improved skills.


Laurie White

Tidewater Community College - the largest provider of higher education and Workforce Solutions services in Hampton Roads - topped 45,000 students in 2009-10. The 16th highest associate-degree producer in the nation, TCC offers more than 150 programs including business administration, culinary arts, general studies, modeling & simulation, network security, nursing, and automotive technology. Among the fastest-growing two-year institutions in the United States, TCC was founded in 1968 as a part of the Virginia Community College System. The college serves the South Hampton Roads region with campuses in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach as well as the TCC Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center in Norfolk’s theater district, the Visual Arts Center in Olde Towne Portsmouth, the Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake, and the Advanced Technology Center in Virginia Beach. Forty-five percent of the region’s residents attending a college or university in Virginia last fall were enrolled at TCC. For more information, visit