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Engineering 100: An Introduction To Engineering Systems At The Us Air Force Academy

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

FPD2 -- Highlighting First-Year Programs

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.615.1 - 12.615.13



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Paper Authors

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Lynnane George U.S. Air Force Academy

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Robert Brown U.S. Air Force Academy

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



Engineering 100 is a required course for all students at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA). It takes an innovative approach to first-year engineering education by introducing engineering in the context of the design process. Students are organized into teams and are given assignments geared towards hands-on exposure to five engineering disciplines: astronautical, aeronautical, mechanical, electrical, and civil. The final project requires them to design, construct, and launch a rocket-powered boost glider. The boost glider is produced in a five-stage process which balances textbook and laboratory work, with each stage focused on one of the engineering disciplines. Faculty from each of the five engineering departments at USAFA teach the course, reinforcing the multidisciplinary nature of engineering projects.

At the beginning of the semester, the students are introduced to the systems engineering design process and computational tools to help them explore design alternatives and communicate their design solutions. They learn practical methods for designing a complicated system and establishing criteria by which they can make good, logical decisions. The students not only learn engineering, they also learn teamwork, peer leadership, and time/resource management.

The format of the course follows five blocks of material, each focused on a particular engineering area. Each block is followed by an exercise that gives the students an opportunity to test their new-found knowledge, such as building and launching a rocket or glider, building a launch platform, and learning about the basics of radio controlled glider operation. For the capstone project, the students must put everything together by building a boost glider which launches vertically like a rocket, transitions into glide phase, and then flies by radio control to a target 100 meters away. The students must combine the knowledge they gained throughout the semester to build the boost glider as well as design and integrate functioning electrical wiring. For the final three days of the course, the classroom experience is moved to an outdoor location where the students actually fly their boost gliders. The factor that makes Engineering 100 unique is its hands-on application of the five engineering disciplines at the freshman level.

This paper will provide an overview of the Engineering 100 curriculum, the systems engineering design process taught, and a description of the capstone boost glider project. Since this is now the seventh year the course has been offered, course development, feedback, and improvements to the course will also be discussed. The detail in this paper is intended to provide enough information for others to use a similar model for course development.


The purpose of Engineering 100 is twofold. The primary purpose is to introduce first-year students to the USAFA engineering disciplines in the context of the systems engineering design process. Students integrate these disciplines using a semester-long boost glider design project. They must use aeronautical engineering to design the glider, astronautical engineering to launch

George, L., & Brown, R. (2007, June), Engineering 100: An Introduction To Engineering Systems At The Us Air Force Academy Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3030

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