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Dreams To Reality: Bringing "Far Out" Back Into Aerospace Education

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Preparing a Modern Aerospace Workforce

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Page Count


Page Numbers

13.452.1 - 13.452.10



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Paper Authors

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Narayanan Komerath Georgia Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Dreams to Reality: Bringing “Far out” Back Home to Aerospace Education Through Concept Development


Despite the harsh realities of the professional workplace, aerospace engineering still lights up the eyes of many. This paper argues that there is a special place for high-risk, ambitious concept architecture and design in the aerospace curriculum. This is essential because of the special characteristics and aptitudes of aerospace students. Several examples of current “grand projects” are considered, and progress towards them is summarized. Several ideas and proven strategies for nurturing such talents in formal curricula are considered.


When asked how to define and differentiate aerospace engineering, the best answer used to be: “Aerospace engineers turn the dreams of Humanity to reality through science and engineering innovation”. This is hard to remember in an age when air travel has become less pleasant than a visit to the dentist, working for airlines and aerospace companies seems to be a perpetual scramble to stay aloft in a downdraft, and we are under constant pressure to bring “cost reality” to squelch the enthusiasm of students and “focus on realistic system development” with mind- numbing Trade Studies.

At a session titled “Space: The Next 50 Years” conducted at a famous space operations center a few years ago, the Session Chair opened the proceedings with the grand declaration: “The Next Fifty Years Are Already Here! With the introduction of the (Giant Aerospace Company) Model XXX Version yyy Booster!” Aerospace appears to have lost its edge as a leader of technological development. At the same time, it is the continuing experience of the author that casual conversations with people in all walks of life all over the world, still turn into a sincere “wow!” when they find out that one is an aerospace engineer. The vision of spending one’s time “among the stars” or pursuing grand dreams, is still very much a part of what motivates many of our first- year students. By the time the professor sees the same students again in the 3rd year, there is a completely different look on their faces, a look of being crushed by the weight of the “realities” that we teach so thoroughly in our curricula.

What happened to the grand dreams? This paper takes the position that the dreamer still has a place in aerospace engineering, and lays out examples of projects and course ideas/experiences to tap the potential tied up in those brains. It is very much part of the mission of a university to convey this inspiration to dream, the environment to do so, including the scientific, moral and technical support needed to nurture dreamers into world-changers.

Proceedings of the 2008 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition. Copyright ©2008 by the American Society of Engineering Education.

Komerath, N. (2008, June), Dreams To Reality: Bringing "Far Out" Back Into Aerospace Education Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4063

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