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A Design-by-Analysis Project for Introductory Students in Aerospace Engineering

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Aircraft Design Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.39.1 - 25.39.11



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Paper Authors

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Mark Anderson University of California, San Diego

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A Design-by-Analysis Project for Introductory Students in Aerospace EngineeringSmall-scale air vehicle models, launched using a pulse of air supplied by a compressed-air tank,make an ideal project for young children. The air vehicles are typically made from commonstationary supplies and are very inexpensive. The compressed-air launch system is safe, noise-free, and does not require flammable liquids or fuels. Variations on this project theme have beenused by elementary school teachers, clubs, parents, and hobbyists.This paper will describe how this simple construction project can be augmented with analysistasks that are appropriate for students entering a university-level program in aerospaceengineering. The approach aims to introduce and engender a design-by-analysis philosophy asopposed to the trail-and-error approach that often results when engineering fundamentals are notwell-understood.The challenge is to develop analysis methods that are appropriate for students that are onlybeginning their college curriculum. Most of these students have not completed a calculussequence and have limited or no experience in differential equations. Their knowledge of staticsand dynamics usually stems from a general physics courses taken in secondary school.The technical approach offered in this paper is to replace complicated performance predictiontechniques with simple analytical expressions and pre-computed design charts. For example,students can readily estimate the ballistic coefficient of a rocket configuration, and then predictits apogee altitude using a design chart. This type of performance prediction is normallycompleted by numerically solving the associated differential equations of motion. However,presenting the same information in the form of a chart makes it possible for beginning students tomake structured design choices and systematically optimize an air vehicle's configuration.Design charts and analysis techniques will be described for two projects. The first projectattempts to achieve the greatest apogee altitude using a configuration that typically resembles arocket. Design choices include construction materials, fuselage diameter and length, and thenumber and size of the tail fins. A second project attempts to achieve the longest range using awing-borne air vehicle. This project requires students to select wing shape parameters, fuselagelength, vertical and horizontal tail surfaces. Design charts for this case focus on maximizing lift-to-drag ratio at the gliding airspeed. To use the design charts, students take measurements ofvehicle dimensions, component weight, and the air pressure supplied by the compressed-airlaunch system.The utility of the approach will be assessed using a recent experience involving a class of over120 aerospace engineering students. The class makeup was predominately first-year students,but also included some third-year transfer students. Assessments will include samples of arequired design report and results of a student course critique.

Anderson, M. (2012, June), A Design-by-Analysis Project for Introductory Students in Aerospace Engineering Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20799

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