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Design Centered Freshman Introduction To Aeorspace Engineering

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.187.1 - 3.187.14

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Paper Authors

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Narayanan Komerath

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

Session 1202


Narayanan Komerath School of Aerospace Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta GA30332-0150

ABSTRACT The conceptual design of a large airliner was used to focus a 3-quarter-hour Introduction to Aerospace Engineering, taught to 39 first-quarter freshmen. Starting from high school physics, chemistry and mathematics, the students completed several engineering assignments, and 2- person team designs of their aircraft to mission specifications. The course went on to introduce space flight issues, and a perspective on the various fields of engineering. Student performance, and assessments of the course, showed high levels of enthusiasm and participation. Many aspects of design, usually postponed to the senior capstone course, are seen to be appropriate for introduction to first-quarter freshmen.

INTRODUCTION The questions posed in this paper are: a) To what level can students coming fresh out of high school learn Flight Vehicle Design, in their first 8 weeks in college? and b) will they appreciate the experience? The genesis of these questions, and the process of answering them, are described below. Figure 1 summarizes the structure and philosophy of the course.

Many of our students come to college with an abstract idea of exploring the unknown, flying free into the blue sky, and reaching out into distant worlds. The rest want to create things that move fast and fly1. They come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, but each has an excellent record of achievement in high school. Far too many of these students are lost to us by the sophomore year, and some of the reasons are specific to AE. Some drop out because the expectation levels are beyond anything they had encountered before, and they are unable to adjust to this early enough. Others are lost because they cannot get excited about some of the prerequisites for engineering courses, and decide that engineering is not for them. A greater fraction, being good at anything they do, find themselves following their classmates, the majority of whom are enrolled in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. They hear too often that these disciplines are much more “general” than A.E., and that A.E. is “too hard”. These superstitions are general, both worldwide and through the decades. In the mid-90s, attrition rates climbed as bad news kept pouring in from the traditional employers of A.Es.

Getting into Trouble The Introduction to Aerospace Engineering course has existed for a long time, intermittently. Its advocates pointed to the perspective and motivation it provided; its detractors called it an “easy- A” waste of a good 3 credit hours on PR movies and picnics, which delayed the weeding-out of those who would not survive the “real” courses. A few years ago the course was re-worked and


Komerath, N. (1998, June), Design Centered Freshman Introduction To Aeorspace Engineering Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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