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Development of a Virtual Reality Flight Simulator to Assist in the Education of Aircraft Design Engineers

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Design Courses 1, Teaching Tools

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Dominic M. Halsmer P.E. Oral Roberts University

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Dr. Dominic M. Halsmer is a Professor of Engineering and former Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at Oral Roberts University. He now serves as the Director of the Center for Faith and Learning at ORU. He has been teaching science and engineering courses there for 22 years, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Oklahoma. He received BS and MS Degrees in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1985 and 1986, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA in 1992. He received an MA Degree in Biblical Literature from Oral Roberts University in 2013. His current research interests involve the use of virtual reality for engineering education, integration of faith and learning, contributions from the field of engineering to the current science/theology discussion, reverse engineering of complex natural systems, and the preparation of scientists and engineers for missions work within technical communities.

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Simeon Spiess Oral Roberts University

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Senior at Oral Roberts University studying engineering with a mechanical concentration

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Geoffrey N.A. Willis Oral Roberts University

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I grew up in Oklahoma, where I have enjoyed playing sports, music, and being involved in my church community.

I have a passion for invention and engineering design, as well as works of fiction.

My favorite hobbies are playing the piano, computer programming, and writing fiction.

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Michael R. VanDusen

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The ongoing development of a Stewart platform-based flight simulator that incorporates virtual reality has provided ample opportunities for exciting project-based learning for undergraduate engineering students at XXX University. Multiple capstone design project teams have contributed to the research and development effort and benefitted from the multi-disciplinary systems engineering environment. The current senior project team consists of four students from the mechanical, electrical and computer engineering concentrations working to provide design improvements/refinements, as well as the development and execution of a testing and validation plan for all aspects of the system. The Stewart platform provides full six-degree-of-freedom motion to the suspended pilot seat through revolute joints in response to pilot inputs via a control yoke or joystick. The pilot senses this simulated aircraft motion while enjoying a realistic virtual reality flight experience via a VIVE headset that provides coordinated scenery outside the windows of the simulated cockpit. Various aircraft options are possible, including uniquely designed custom aircraft via the PlaneMaker feature of the Xplanes flight simulation software. This will allow engineering students in the Aircraft Design course to create original aircraft designs, input the necessary parameters into PlaneMaker, and virtually test-pilot their own custom aircraft in order to assess flight performance and characteristics. This experience then forms the basis for engineering design modifications in an effort to improve performance and further refine the fledgling aircraft design. Providing students with such timely and exciting feedback on their own original aircraft designs is anticipated to be highly motivating to the engineering students. In addition, the simulator will be housed in the Virtual Reality Center at the university so that local K-12 students can experience the wonder of flight, as well as some of the engineering aspects of aircraft design. Thus, the simulator and its interfaces must be engineered to be simple enough for a non-expert to operate. It is believed that this experience will help to motivate more K-12 students in the pursuit of an engineering career. Although nearly complete, there are a few aspects of the system that need further engineering analysis and development. Finite element analysis will be applied to the mechanical linkages, and necessary changes made, in order to firmly establish appropriate factors of safety for all mechanical elements. The development of a more realistic control yoke to receive pilot inputs is also being researched and considered. In addition, the computer interfaces for proper signal communications requires additional work. But the primary focus of this final phase is the development and execution of a test and validation plan to ensure that the system is providing a reasonably accurate simulation of the actual flight experience. This will require subsystem testing as well as integrated systems testing to faithfully reproduce vehicular dynamics for a variety of aircraft types.

Halsmer, D. M., & Spiess, S., & Willis, G. N., & VanDusen, M. R. (2021, July), Development of a Virtual Reality Flight Simulator to Assist in the Education of Aircraft Design Engineers Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36964

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