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Impact Of Rapid Prototyping Facilities On Engineering Student Outcomes

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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

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.693.1 - 13.693.11



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Paper Authors


James Helbling Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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Currently an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering where he teaches structural analysis, computer aided conceptual design, and aircraft detail design courses. He has 21 years of industry experience with McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and Northrop Grumman Corporation where he specialized in structural fatigue loading and served as manager of F-5/T-38 Engineering.

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Lance Traub Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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Currently an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering where he teaches experimental methods, wind tunnel testing and high speed aerodynamics. He has over 14 years of experience in applied research and teaching. Dr. Traub is the author of over 45 reviewed journal articles and 10 conference papers.

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


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) has formed a reputation for providing undergraduate students with a curriculum which has a strong emphasis on hands-on, application based learning. In an effort to improve this learning environment, the campus has recently added a Rapid Prototyping Laboratory which contains three 3-dimensional printers. The printers are used in courses throughout the aerospace engineering curriculum starting during the freshmen year and continuing through the senior year of study. Students get introduced to the rapid prototyping concept in their initial multi-disciplinary design course during their freshmen year, and then are given the opportunity to fabricate wind tunnel models during a sophomore year design course. Junior and senior level students make use of the 3-dimensional printers to facilitate verification of experimental concepts in laboratories or for creating physical models representative of their designs.

This paper discusses the impact the rapid prototyping facilities have had on student outcomes as defined for various laboratory and design based courses, and how these correspond to the outcomes defined by ABET. The process students follow to create the 3-dimensional models from files generated using computer aided design (CAD) software is explained. The impact on student learning in laboratory courses which make use of rapid prototyping is defined both qualitatively and quantitatively. A special emphasis is placed on the impact on student learning in the senior capstone courses, which involve the fabrication of models used to verify design assumptions made during preliminary design phases. These models allow for timely instruction in testing methods utilized in industry and graduate programs using more sophisticated models. Also discussed is the improved ability for faculty to perform undergraduate research and improve the learning environment outside of the traditional classroom setting. The paper concludes with a summary of the overall improvement in the undergraduate learning environment and proposed curriculum improvements which are directly tied to the rapid prototyping facility.


The following sections provide insight into the improvement in ERAU student outcomes resulting from the addition of new rapid prototyping facilities. These outcomes are defined by the College of Engineering in accordance with ABET a-k criteria1. The particular outcome which is most directly impacted by the new facilities states: “All engineering students will be laboratory and computer proficient with modern equipment and current laboratory and computer methods.” 2 The impact on student outcomes for individual courses will be discussed on a course-by-course basis.

The paper begins with an overview of the rapid prototyping facility, which provides the chronological sequence of events that led to the lab’s current status and provides a description of the process used by students to create the rapid prototyped parts. The subsequent sections provide a course-by-course review recounting the impact of the new facility on the courses

Helbling, J., & Traub, L. (2008, June), Impact Of Rapid Prototyping Facilities On Engineering Student Outcomes Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4266

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