June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.507.1 - 15.507.17
Enhancing Aerospace Engineering Education through Flight Testing Research Abstract
This paper describes the typical workflow of projects conducted within the flight control group at West Virginia University (WVU) over the last decade. Researchers belonging to this group have acquired substantial and documented experience in the design, manufacturing and flight testing of small unmanned aircraft and successfully demonstrated autonomous GPS-based, closed-loop formation flight using 3 custom-built jet-powered UAVs in 2004. A typical flight control project at West Virginia University embodies several aspects of engineering education, as well as theoretical and practical topics, which are not covered in a conventional classroom or research setting. Specifically, undergraduate and graduate students involved within different research projects learn basic hardware and maintenance of small unmanned aerial vehicles, systems engineering, aircraft design, flight simulation and testing, as well as system identification and control design. Although aerospace engineering students are introduced to the fundamentals of flight dynamics in their coursework, the experience of project-based research enhances their understanding of the discipline as well as improves other critical engineering skills for future application in the professional world. This paper describes the work of several undergraduate and graduate students in the above-mentioned areas, with particular emphasis on the flight-testing and system identification phases.
Aerospace engineering education at a college or university typically encompasses the study of aircraft, rockets, missiles, and spacecraft. An aerospace engineering curriculum consists of the fundamental concepts of flight, mathematics, and science, as well as the most recent advances in aerospace technology22. Laboratories or special class projects are often incorporated to enhance these lessons; however, this only constitutes a small portion of the class and curriculum. In fact after graduation, students still typically require substantial training in systems engineering before they can be fully effective within aerospace companies. Furthermore, while practicing engineers typically have one or two areas of expertise, engineers who understand their specialty in the context of the entire system are considered to be the most effective11 and tend to advance toward leading positions in their company or institution.
The Panel on Undergraduate Education lists the following goals of an undergraduate education in engineering14:
• To prepare graduates to contribute to engineering practice by learning from professional engineering assignments; • To prepare them for graduate study in engineering; • To provide a base for lifelong learning and professional development.
Additionally, the Panel on Undergraduate Education emphasizes the need for students to have extensive laboratory experience in their curriculum. They argue that “the concept of the undergraduate student as an experimenter is fundamental to engineering education and to the role
Phillips, K., & Campa, G., & Gururajan, S., & Napolitano, M. (2010, June), Enhancing Aerospace Engineering Education Through Flight Testing Research Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16698
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