June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.246.1 - 13.246.11
Back to the Basics: Increasing Student Understanding of Aerospace Engineering Experimentation and Instrumentations
An aerospace engineering laboratory sequence is revised as the introduction to experimental methods is pushed down into the undergraduate curriculum from the final upper division year into the beginning of the upper division. The course has been extensively revised to insure that experimental methods are introduced and reviewed as well as introducing technical content for laboratories which may lead the academic introduction of this content. Courses which have been eliminated from the curriculum as the scope of the curriculum is broadened must be supplanted with increased and refined content in other courses, such as this lab sequence. Electronic and computer programming content which heretofore had been covered with separate courses must be replaced by a concerted effort to not only review, but introduce and provide a firm basis of understanding of material necessary particularly toward understanding of instrumentation in the computer age. Concerted efforts are required to insure that the material is thoroughly introduced prior to experimentation which will require a fundamental knowledge of the principles involved. The use of National Instruments introductory courseware for programming and experimentation is reviewed and adoption of the NI ELVIS system is described. The immediate and continued success of students involved in this two course sequence is described, as they put their lab skills to work in the lab, at home, and on individual research projects. The evolution and expansion of laboratory instrumentation is described and the assessment of this laboratory sequence is discussed.
Introduction to Experimental Methods
In the aerospace engineering curriculum at many universities, laboratory exercises are either included as an integral part of various classes, or separated into a sequence of courses taught in the upper division. Previously at Mississippi State University, laboratory courses were offered only in the senior year, with one course being a lecture/lab class introducing experimental methods, and the other concentrating only on various laboratory tasks. Additionally, individual research projects required of all undergraduates in the program were conducted as adjunct to the first course in the sequence. Over the past decade or so, a few lab experiments were implemented into first, the upper division, in the Aircraft Structures Design course, and later into several other classes including fluid mechanics, statics, dynamics, and controls courses, but only infrequently and with limited success. A web based virtual laboratory for the study of mechanics was developed1,2, and as the web matured, so did the use of this venue for supplementing classroom studies. Mississippi State University began to centralize online course offerings by supporting two primary applications developed expressly for this purpose, WebCT and Blackboard. Simultaneously with efforts to increase virtual lab experiences, there was an increased emphasis on including experiential learning into traditional lecture-based classes. Eventually one aircraft panel design project was refined to the point of being a repeatable exercise of the final senior structures design course (Figure 1).
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