July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Ocean and Marine
A curriculum on naval science & technology has been established at a midwestern university, which takes the form of an undergraduate certificate that is earned alongside a student’s major. The program began as a Certificate in Naval Hydrodynamics, and has recently expanded to also include autonomous naval systems in order to provide a broader technical background relevant to the Navy and defense contractors.
Although the institution has a long history of Navy-sponsored graduate research – which provides a strong foundation for the undergraduate program -- it has not had a reputation for undergraduate instruction in naval science & technology. Thus, the program provides new opportunities for students to enter the field, and provides pathways to careers in the Navy and its contractors. However, there are unique challenges to the vitality of the program in these nascent stages. As we are developing recognition among regional high schools and employers of certificate graduates, we are dealing with small numbers of students, and students that are generally unaware of the types of career opportunities available in the field. Maintaining sustainable course enrollments is therefore a challenge, exacerbated by the technical prerequisite requirements that exclude most students in the university, limiting enrollment to engineering students (primarily mechanical engineers).
In addition to expanding the program to include autonomous systems, we have employed two strategies to broaden program impact and student participation. First, the courses are designed to focus on experiential learning in a manner that provides students with a rigorous and broad education involving transferable skills such as computational fluid dynamics, experimental methods, autonomous system operations, guidance, navigation and control, and leadership. This is achieved, in part, through close student-project collaboration with experts in the Navy and industry, and close interaction with faculty in the Mechanical Engineering program.
Second, we have established a student organization focused on the development of an autonomous boat. The student team competes in international competitions, which provide focus as well as participation by a much wider range of students than the formal curriculum can engage. Competition requirements ensure that the activities of the student organization are well-aligned with the curriculum, providing synergy between the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. This is fostered through the development of course activities inspired by competition events, senior design projects focused on components of the competition boat, and faculty participation in design reviews within the student organization. The student organization also enhances the visibility of the certificate program among students.
Our goals are to understand how the curriculum impacts student engagement and performance within the student organization, and vice-versa, as well as how these elements influence students’ interest in naval science & technology, and careers in that field. These results are assessed through a series of surveys conducted in undergraduate seminars (which address all students in the Mechanical Engineering program), as well as surveys and focus groups in certificate courses and the student organization.
Buchholz, J., & Russell, J., & Cichella, V., & Harwood, C., & Xiao, S., & Carrica, P. M. (2021, July), A Curriculum on Naval Science & Technology for a Midwestern University Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36574
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