Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Development of a Virtual Reality Flight Simulator to Assist in the Design of Original Aircraft (Work in Progress)
The undergraduate engineering curriculum is extremely challenging, largely due to the complexity of the processes and concepts it introduces. One good way to handle this complexity and assist students in learning about the development of engineered products is by providing enhanced visualization of the processes and concepts involved. This has been recognized recently by several researchers who are attempting to harness state-of-the-art virtual reality experiences to improve the quality of engineering education. This has prompted one group to write, "Virtual reality has grown up. Once an exotic field of computer sciences, it is now an important topic for the engineers of tomorrow."1
The engineering research and development of a virtual reality flight simulator seems like a good way to engage undergraduate engineering students with the up-and-coming field of virtual reality. A multidisciplinary team of students at our university are pursuing this as their senior capstone design project. The completed system will serve as an addition to the engineering labs and assist future students with their design of original aircraft. With the help of a VIVE headset, the system will simulate the cockpit environment and faithfully respond to pilot control inputs. The pilot will be strapped into a seat to be rigidly mounted atop a Stewart platform, which will roughly simulate the dynamics of a student’s custom aircraft design.
This virtual reality aircraft motion simulator features several facets of engineering analysis that enhances engineering education, both for those developing the simulator, and for those who will use it in design. First, the geometry of the simulator will be mathematically analyzed and defined by the students, which will enable optimal geometries to be solved for to maximize certain ranges of motion. Then, the dynamics of the system will be simulated using MATLAB's Simulink technology. This technical application confirms the simulator's theoretical dynamic performance before the build process begins, verifying the ranges of motion from the students' mathematical analysis. Furthermore, structural analysis with ANSYS will be used to calculate the factor of safety of the system, which will help properly size the rotary actuators. This engineering analysis of the simulator will function to increase exposure to principles of aircraft design to both technical and non-technical students alike. The simulator is tailor-made to accompany our university's Aircraft Design course, in that it allows engineering students to create their custom airplane using XPlane and fly it on the simulator. This immediate, immersive feedback enriches the students' knowledge of aircraft design and increases interest in the topic. Additionally, the portable design of the simulator enables the system to serve as an exciting advertisement to pre-college students considering the world of STEM studies.
1. P. Hafner, V. Hafner, J. Ovtcharova, “Teaching Methodology for Virtual Reality: A Practical Course in Engineering Education,” Procedia Computer Science, Vol. 25, pp. 251-260, 2013.
Halsmer, D. M., & Voth, J. A., & McCain, C. A., & Reutter, J. D., & Frailey, N. S., & Samuelson, M., & Ahrens, D. (2018, June), Development of a Virtual Reality Flight Simulator to Assist in the Design of Original Aircraft Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30326
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