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Design Centered Introduction: 3 Year Experience With The Gateway To The Aerospace Digital Library

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.194.1 - 5.194.13



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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 2225

Design-Centered Introduction: 3-year Experience with the Gateway to the Aerospace Digital Library

Narayanan Komerath Professor, Aerospace Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology


An experiment is described where conceptual design of a large system, usually reserved for the senior year, is introduced to the undergraduate in the very first week of college. The Design- Centered Introduction to Aerospace Engineering is described, from its inception in 1997 to its current state, where most instructors of the introductory course have adopted it. The experiences of three senior instructors are considered. The evidence indicates that students at this level can perform well in many aspects of conceptual design. This opens the possibility of a design- centered curriculum, where traditional discipline-centered rigor need not be compromised. The impact of internet-based capabilities is presented. The Design-Centered Introduction has been developed into an intuitive interface which learners at any level can use for guidance to the entire knowledge base of engineering, through an Aerospace Digital Library. Student assessment of web-based learning using this course completes the paper.

I. Introduction

Engineering design is usually viewed as the “capstone” and culmination of the undergraduate’s curricular experience. Students of aerospace engineering await this opportunity to exercise their dreams, eagerly, often to the frustration of the teachers charged with ensuring that they learn the other technical subjects which are less glamorous and more difficult to the undergraduate. Professors who as undergraduates have taken Capstone Design courses, cannot help feeling that such a course is a dubious use of scant senior-year time, since the level of the material is not as challenging as that of the upper-level courses and independent projects in our disciplines. On the other hand, there is no argument about the need for students to have significant design experiences in the curriculum.

At the other end of the curriculum, there is a strong need to give students the time, opportunity and motivation to gain a perspective of their chosen field, and try their hand at design, which is one of the strongest reasons why they come to engineering. The problem here is that to many faculty, a “design” experience for a student just entering school could not be imagined as being anything other than a high-school level entertainment session. In a tightly packed curriculum, it was hard to justify spending several leisurely hours on such a course. In writing this, the author acknowledges that reality can be far better than this, as shown by many teachers in several forms of freshman design experiences 1-12. The difficulty, again, is that many faculty cannot imagine this being the case, have negative anecdotes to reinforce their superstitions, and will not devote

Komerath, N. (2000, June), Design Centered Introduction: 3 Year Experience With The Gateway To The Aerospace Digital Library Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8276

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