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A Comparison and Evaluation of Aeronautical Engineering Learning Outcomes using an Airborne Flight Laboratory and a Flight Simulator Laboratory.

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2016 ASEE International Forum


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 25, 2016

Start Date

June 25, 2016

End Date

June 25, 2016

Conference Session

Concurrent Virtual Sessions

Tagged Topic

International Forum Virtual Presentation

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Raymond Colin Lewis University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy

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Commenced flying career in the Australian Defence Force; became an Airline Pilot; returned to university to inform work as a Human Factors facilitator for the airline. Worked in Middle East as pilot before commencing as a Senior Lecturer for the University of New South Wales (Canberra) in 2001. As well as teaching, operated University aircraft for Aeronautical Engineering laboratories.

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Matthew Garratt University of New South Wales

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A/Prof Matt Garratt is the research admissions coordinator for the school of Engineering and IT and is based in the Canberra campus of UNSW Australia. His main research areas focus on sensing, guidance and control for autonomous systems. Some of his research successes include demonstration of terrain following using vision for an unmanned helicopter, landing an unmanned helicopter onto a moving deck simulator and control of helicopters using neural networks. Some of his current research projects include achieving autonomous flight in cluttered environments using monocular cameras and range sensors, landing UAVs on moving platforms, formation satellite control and building and manipulating 3D models collected by robots for visualisation purposes. He is senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), member of the American Helicopter Society (AHS), the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) and the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems (AAUS).

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Like many other engineering schools, the School of Engineering and Information Technology (SEIT) at the University of New South Wales (Canberra) recognised the importance of student laboratories to complement classroom theory. This is because laboratory work enables students to observe the relationship between theory and practice. Importantly, students begin to gain confidence in the application of theory by observing its practical limitations. For this reason, it was decided to develop an airborne laboratory facility. An aircraft was acquired and it was equipped with a suite of sensors and instruments that allowed many aircraft flight parameters to be measured and recorded. Beginning in 1998, Aeronautical Engineering students and candidate pilots carried out a flight which allowed them to investigate aspects of aircraft performance, handling qualities and stability (static and dynamic) in a 1.2 hour flight. These experiments maximized the students’ experience and exposure to flight test. After an evaluation of the effort and time that academic staff required to operate the flight laboratory in 2010 the airborne flight laboratory was discontinued. In its place there has been developed an Aviation Studio, equipped with a fixed-base flight simulator. The engineering flight simulator has been specifically designed as a versatile and practical hands-on aid to the teaching of flight mechanics and dynamics and aircraft design. Using a flight console, screens and X-Plane software, students can manipulate many aircraft characteristics. The purpose of this paper is to compare the learning outcomes of what was a very experiential learning process – the airborne flight laboratory, to a more ‘contained’ learning environment – the Aviation Studio.

It is realized that comparisons of examination results and test scores are not a valid metric when evaluating the learning outcomes of different cohorts of students. In both the airborne laboratory and the flight simulator laboratory students submitted a laboratory report some two weeks after the laboratory session. The marked and assessed laboratory reports are a component of the total assessment for a Fundamentals of Flight course. A comparison of the marks and quality of laboratory reports produced in the two teaching and learning environments provided a basis of comparison for the learning outcomes of the two teaching and learning laboratories. In a matched-subjects design, participants were matched into blocks on the basis of a variable the researcher believes relevant to the experiment – in this case academic prowess. In this way some of the methodological issues when comparing the learning outcomes of two student cohorts may be overcome. The weighted average mean result (WAM) achieved by each student at the end of the previous year was ascertained. Students with similar WAMs and who have carried out either the airborne lab or the studio laboratory were matched and the resultant difference in their laboratory assessment recorded. A statistical analysis of the result difference produced evidence that the flight simulator laboratory produced a significantly better learning outcome. This result is discussed with reference to the development of learning paradigms and research activities in the flight simulator laboratory.

Lewis, R. C., & Garratt, M. (2016, June), A Comparison and Evaluation of Aeronautical Engineering Learning Outcomes using an Airborne Flight Laboratory and a Flight Simulator Laboratory. Paper presented at 2016 ASEE International Forum, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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