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Aeronautical Engineering In A Multimedia Classroom: Developing A Physical Feel For Aerodynamic Models

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.54.1 - 1.54.5



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Paper Authors

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CPT Thomas G. Hood

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Colonel Kip P. Nygren

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2302

Aeronautical Engineering in a Multimedia Classroom; Developing a Physical Feel for Aerodynamic Models.

CPT Thomas G. Hood, COL Kip P. Nygren United States Military Academy


The primary goals for the integration of computer simulation and multimedia into the engineering classroom are to improve students’ understanding of the natural world and to increase their enthusiasm and vision for the possibilities of engineering. Computer visualization and multimedia presentations can motivate and empower students to explore and exploit mathematical models of the natural world, while developing their engineering intuition and understanding of important physical relationships.

Junior level engineering students in an introductory aerodynamics course at the U.S. Military Academy were exposed to diverse computer simulations and multimedia presentations in West Point’s Advanced Technology Classroom Laboratory. Through the use of interactive software in an active learning environment, students were able to easily consider various combinations of aerodynamic parameters, develop an intuitive feel for realistic values and study the impact of varying different engineering parameters. Appropriate emphasis was placed on the use of fundamental conservation laws and mathematical models so that the students were better able to learn engineering with the assistance of mathematics, not despite the mathematics. This class helped the students develop a solid engineering foundation based on physical understanding, that supported them in more advanced engineering courses.


Understanding the net forces acting on an airfoil has never been difficult for the student. The concepts of lift, drag, weight, and thrust are generally easy for the student to understand and to “picture” in his or her mind. Unfortunately, this only helps the student in experimental aerodynamics. In the world of theoretical aerodynamics, the student must be able to develop and use mathematical flow models that will produce the forces and moments acting on an airfoil. While relatively simple potential flow models for aerodynamics have been around for a long time, it remains a daunting conceptual leap for students to visualize these mathematical models and their relationship to the physical world. This difficulty often leaves students confused about the implementation of these aerodynamic models to understand the flow around any body, and unsure of their ability to perform the long and tedious calculations and obtain a realistic result.

At West Point, we exposed students to the visual aspects of potential theory first and then worked with them to perform the mathematical calculations necessary to accurately model flow about an airfoil and the associated forces acting on that airfoil. During a recent semester instructors in the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering led students through this visualization process using a multi-media classroom which

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Hood, C. T. G., & Nygren, C. K. P. (1996, June), Aeronautical Engineering In A Multimedia Classroom: Developing A Physical Feel For Aerodynamic Models Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5882

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