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Development of Aerospace Engineering-Focused Undergraduate Research at a Small University: Accomplishments and Lessons Learned

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Aerospace Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.426.1 - 23.426.13



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Paper Authors


R. Danner Friend Norwich University

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Dr. R. Danner Friend received his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1999. He then worked for Applied Research Associates in Alexandria, Va. prior to coming to Norwich University in 2003. He is currently an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at Norwich. Some of the courses that he regularly teaches include Materials Science, Manufacturing, and Mechanical Engineering Tools. He enjoys mentoring undergraduate students in aerospace-related research projects. Some of the research areas include autonomous navigation of micro-space vehicles, underwater robotic vehicles, and design of experiments for testing new materials for spacecraft thermal protection systems.

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Jacques N Beneat Norwich University

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Dr. Jacques Beneat received the Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Massachusetts in 1993 with focus on advanced microwave structures for satellite communications.
He is currently associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Norwich University in Vermont. He has been involved in undergraduate research for many years with international collaborations with the Ecoles militaires de Saint-Cyr and the University of Bordeaux in France, and the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada.

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Development of Aerospace Engineering Focused Undergraduate Research at a Small University: Accomplishments and Lessons LearnedInvolving undergraduate students in mentored research projects can provide a valuable, highimpact educational experience while providing added benefits to faculty mentors, the institution,and the greater scientific and engineering community. This paper describes the evolution andsuccessful strategies implemented in the development of aerospace engineering focusedundergraduate research at a small undergraduate level university. Undergraduate research can bechallenging to implement in a small, teaching focused university with limited resources and nograduate school programs. Over a period of six years, the research program at this universityhas evolved from one with very little aerospace related undergraduate research activity to anactive and sustainable program where students can contribute to research efforts in areas ofcritical need within the Aerospace community.The research program has been built upon a model of undergraduate research established by theCouncil on Undergraduate Research (CUR) where research is broadly defined, faculty mentorsare actively involved, and there is an expectation that the research processes and results will bedisseminated through presentations and/or publications. An interdisciplinary, team approach hasbeen emphasized with most of the aerospace related projects involving teams of students fromboth the Mechanical and Electrical and Computer Engineering programs. Students canparticipate in research related activities during the summer through summer research fellowshipsas well as during the school year through senior design projects and independent research. Theprimary funding has come from NASA through the state’s Space Grant Consortium and NASAEPSCoR programs with some additional funding through the university’s academic researchprogram office. Technical areas of the projects have included Optical Navigation, Nanosatellites,Image Processing, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, and Inductively Coupled Plasma TorchFacility testing.Some of the measures of success that are reported in this paper include the number and diversityof students involved in aerospace related research activities, sustained funding received tosupport the research, collaboration with other universities and NASA centers, faculty mentorinvolvement, and the dissemination of research processes and results. One measure of successthat is particularly noteworthy is the large number of student presentations at a variety ofuniversity and state level venues as well as prestigious national conferences including ASMEInternational Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, AIAA Aerospace SciencesMeeting, and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. In addition to the successes,this paper addresses the challenges encountered and lessons learned during the process ofbuilding the research program.

Friend, R. D., & Beneat, J. N. (2013, June), Development of Aerospace Engineering-Focused Undergraduate Research at a Small University: Accomplishments and Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19440

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