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Constructing General Aviation Aircraft In The Aerospace Lab Courses

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Undergraduate Aerospace Labs/Design II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.346.1 - 10.346.13

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Paper Authors

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Joon Kim

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Daniel Biezad

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

Constructing General Aviation Aircraft in the Aerospace Lab Courses

Daniel J. Biezad, Joon Kim Aerospace Engineering Department California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


The Aerospace Engineering Department at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, is in the midst of a dynamic experiment to revitalize its “hands on” approach to undergraduate engineering education by introducing aircraft manufacturing and fabrication “kits” into its laboratory curriculum. The challenges and opportunities are many, and the most important are discussed in this paper. They include the enormous difficulty of establishing a recurring lab syllabus for such an endeavor, combined with the lack of faculty expertise in aircraft fabrication that may exist in the department. Traditional projects and grades are also a problem, since failure or sub-standard work to meet any standard for flight is not acceptable. Adequate lab space, resources, specialty tools, and expertise in blueprint analysis are also difficult challenges to meet, especially for the large number of inexperienced students who come into this course at every offering.

The way that Cal Poly has been meeting the above challenges is both unique and risky. The recruiting and inclusion of resources from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), from industry, from the university, and from local hobbyists to help establish these special lab courses is presented, along with very real concerns about liability and safety. Funding needs and workload on faculty and students are also realistically discussed. Student comment and enthusiasm for the work conclude the paper.

I. The Challenge and the Opportunity

Ideas abound on how to improve technical education1 by changing America’s culture of teaching. Engineering accreditation teams struggle with how to offer the laboratory experience2 so that more can share in the benefits of “hands on” activity. One of the primary goals of engineering practice has always been to link theory with practice, and true-life stories of engineering practice are both interesting and profound.3,4 Providing the student with his or her own true-life experience while at the academy increases both the motivation to master a subject and the developing passion for creative activity.

Technical educators bemoan the fact that some, if not many, of our students do not develop this passion for learning or habit for independent, innovative thought that is at the heart of all professional education.5 Despite the significant promotion of team activities in engineering colleges, some still view the engineering profession in particular as solitary work in cubicles that consists of reading articles and accessing computer programs for an occasional meeting. This view matches and is reinforced by much of their academic experience in the classroom. The link between theory and practice may be spoken but seldom experienced for these students.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference * Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Kim, J., & Biezad, D. (2005, June), Constructing General Aviation Aircraft In The Aerospace Lab Courses Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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