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Design Centered Introduction: Experience With Iterative Learning

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.333.1 - 6.333.12

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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 1353

Design-Centered Introduction: Experience with Iterative Learning Narayanan Komerath Professor, School of Aerospace Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology


Since 1997, freshmen at Georgia Tech have been introduced to aerospace engineering through the experience of conceptual design, applied to a complete aircraft. Lessons learned from the success of this ambitious experiment are examined here. The concept of iterative learning helps students maintain a high learning rate, and allows them to use what they learn, quickly. Support mechanisms for the first year are integrated into the course through various techniques such as the requirement to exchange knowledge and form teams. Through the initiative of several senior professors, an experience base has been developed, sufficient to enable students in Fall 2000 to design any one of several types of aircraft. Experience from this course is discussed, comparing various learning and motivating techniques with the expectations, capabilities and reactions of the students. In the first teaching of this course, it was verified that first year students already came prepared with skills and interests to excel in many aspects. Since then, teaching has been redirected to take the best advantage of these capabilities, and the results have been rewarding. The change in student attitudes developed through this course is becoming clear, as aspects which were tentative experiments to the freshmen of 1998 are now expected practice for the freshmen of 2000. The resulting potential for revolutionary changes to the curriculum is explored. It is implied that the curriculum can be restructured substantially, as students enter upper-level courses with an excellent experience base of doing the things needed to “gain perspective” on the field.

I. Introduction

Since 1997, freshmen at Georgia Tech have been introduced to aerospace engineering through the experience of conceptual design, applied to a complete aircraft. While such a project sounds ambitious for the freshman year, there are several reasons why it has become a successful experiment, with implications for the rest of the curriculum. Past ASEE papers described the basic concept of the Design-Centered Introduction course1 and summarized teaching approaches taken by three different instructors in subsequent versions of the course2. In this paper, the concept of the Design-centered Introduction (DCI) is first summarized. The issues of learning by iteration are then examined. The two ideas are then related to each other.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition. Copyright ©2001 American Society for Engineering Education.

Komerath, N. (2001, June), Design Centered Introduction: Experience With Iterative Learning Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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