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Creating the Framework for Better Aerospace Engineers

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Aerospace Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.349.1 - 23.349.19



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Paper Authors


Trevor J. Bennett Texas A&M University

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Trevor Bennett is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. His research interests include dynamics and controls of aerospace vehicles, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle design, and astrodynamics. Bennett currently serves as the mentoring chair for the Texas A&M University chapter of Sigma Gamma Tau, the Aerospace Engineering Honor Society.

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Kristin D. Nichols Texas A&M University

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Kristin D. Nichols is completing her last semester of undergraduate study in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. Her undergraduate research has ranged from wind tunnel design to robotic interfaces and control, to her current research in simulating Solar System dynamics. She has also completed three tours at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as an Engineering Co-op Student. Her graduate research will focus on asteroid dynamics and interplanetary mission design. Nichols is the recipient of the Sigma Gamma Tau Outstanding Senior Award for 2013 and has also served as the Texas A&M AIAA Vice Chair and AIAA Class Representative.

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Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Dr. Kristi J. Shryock is the assistant department head for Undergraduate Programs and Outreach in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She is also a senior lecturer in the department. She received her Ph.D. in interdisciplinary engineering with a research focus on engineering education. She works to improve the undergraduate engineering experience through evaluating preparation in mathematics and physics, incorporating experiential education in the classroom, and introducing multidisciplinary design.

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Creating the Framework for Better Aerospace EngineersThe Aerospace Engineering Department at Institution believes that a successful engineer isequipped to innovate and create within the technical community and to inspire and informsociety as a whole. Creating the framework for this success embodies the educational process atInstitution and constitutes the essence of the Introduction to Aerospace Engineering coursetaught during the freshman year. The course has evolved into one capable of capturing theimagination of students and guiding them through three consecutive projects that encompassAerodynamics, Structures, Rockets, Orbital Mechanics, and Spacecraft Design.The course resides in a key position in the aerospace curriculum. Taken either in the first orsecond semester of the students’ college career, the course has substantial influence over thestudents’ opinion and enthusiasm about aerospace engineering. The course serves to ferry thestudent from high school interest to an understanding of what the four year degree will provide.The power that resides in this introductory course is the motivation for innovation in ourteaching process. Our objective can be viewed metaphorically as a tree: this course constructs theintellectual trunk and branches of a sapling, so that it may grow larger and sprout leaves as thestudent progresses through the coursework.The course creates this framework through several complementary means. The lower levelcourse structure is simple: combine hands on experience with lecture based material and context,so that each student may connect the dots within aerospace engineering. Then complement theprojects and lectures by connecting each team of four students with an upperclassman mentor.The mentor provides in-class guidance and is a peer source of information about the department,classes, experiences, and opportunities.The projects are exploratory in nature. The first project guides the students through a basic wingdesign, fabrication, and load testing. The second project guides the students through basic rocketdesign, fabrication, and launch. The final project guides the students through design of aspacecraft and an interplanetary trajectory. This paper will discuss in greater detail how theIntroduction to Aerospace Engineering course at Institution has evolved through the past fewiterations, what lessons learned have been identified, what future implementations are planned,and how the course builds the framework for better aerospace engineers.

Bennett, T. J., & Nichols, K. D., & Shryock, K. J. (2013, June), Creating the Framework for Better Aerospace Engineers Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19363

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