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Helicopter Aerodynamics and Design Course Developed from a Research-Informed Framework

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Aerospace Technical Session 2

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Page Count


Page Numbers

26.840.1 - 26.840.29



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Paper Authors


Antonette T. Cummings P.E. Purdue University

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Antonette T. Cummings is a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She earned her Bachelors and Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She functioned as an aerodynamicist for military and civilian tiltrotors at Bell Helicopter for seven years, earning airplane and helicopter private pilot ratings. She has a Professional Engineer license in Texas in Thermal/Fluid Systems.

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William C. Oakes Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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William (Bill) Oakes is the Director of the EPICS Program and one of the founding faculty members of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has held courtesy appointments in Mechanical, Environmental and Ecological Engineering as well as Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. He is a registered professional engineer and on the NSPE board for Professional Engineers in Higher Education. He has been active in ASEE serving in the FPD, CIP and ERM. He is the past chair of the IN/IL section. He is a fellow of the Teaching Academy and listed in the Book of Great Teachers at Purdue University. He was the first engineering faculty member to receive the national Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. He was a co-recipient of the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education and the recipient of the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Educational Excellence Award and the ASEE Chester Carlson Award. He is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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Helicopter Aerodynamics and Design Course Developed from a Research-Informed Framework This document describes an introductory helicopter aerodynamics and design engineeringcourse for undergraduates in aeronautical or aerospace engineering. The three major sections ofthis document are Content, Assessment, and Pedagogy. These sections have been developedaccording to Engineering Education research principles and findings, such that the three sectionsare aligned with one another. The course’s foundation is to provide authentic practice formeaningful learning. The content of this course is arranged according to the principles of Backward Design(Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). The concepts are arranged according to importance: EnduringUnderstandings, items that are Important-to-Know, and items that are Good-to-be-Familiar-With.Concept Maps show density of relationships among concepts, thereby indicating importance.Perkins outlines eight attributes of conceptually difficult knowledge (Perkins, 2009). Helicopterrotors have seven of the eight. He also advocates “working on the hard parts”, so the course willuncover these concepts repeatedly and in various ways. Existing helicopter course descriptionsfrom other prominent universities are shown for comparison to this proposed content. The assessment section presents several tools that help align assessment strategies withcourse content as presented in the previous section. Firstly, there is a map between the Contentto Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson, Krathwohl, & Bloom, 2001). Secondly, there is developmentof assessment strategies for the Enduring Understandings of this course through AssessmentTriangles (Pellegrino, Chudowsky, & Glaser, 2001) and Assessment Worksheets. Thirdly, arubric is developed for the most comprehensive Enduring Understanding, shown as an authentictask (Hansen, 2011). The pedagogy section outlines the printed material that will be provided to the student atthe beginning of the course. This includes a syllabus and a lesson plan. The foundation of thispart of the course is the inclusion of the seven principles of Making Learning Whole (Perkins,2009) in order to outline to the student how and why the content will be taught in this course.Cognitive theory and concept learning theory are applied (Svinicki, 2004). The content of this course is intended to emphasize a student’s ability to think like anaerodynamicist, a design engineer and a helicopter pilot. The assessment strategies of this courseare intended to measure the student’s ability to think like an aerodynamicist and a designengineer, especially where the answers are not known beforehand and the engineer must show alogical process in finding at least one acceptable solution. The pedagogy is driven by researchresults and recommendations from several disciplines. Lastly, the day-to-day course activitiesare developed “downstream” of the content, the assessment strategies, and the pedagogy, insteadof simply following the chapter order of a respected textbook. The content reflects the commonly held understandings that multiple leading universitiesdocument in their course descriptions. The assessment strategies reflect the varied results thatstudents may generate with higher level thinking. The pedagogy reflects the established trend ofcooperative learning as the “best” form of active, student-centered learning, where the instructorscaffolds the student’s learning process and develops the student’s ability to pursue self-guidedinquiry, which is the highest goal of teaching.

Cummings, A. T., & Oakes, W. C. (2015, June), Helicopter Aerodynamics and Design Course Developed from a Research-Informed Framework Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24177

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