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Injecting the Real World into the Capstone Design Experience

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Aircraft Design Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.780.1 - 25.780.8



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Paper Authors


David B. Kanipe Texas A&M University

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A native Texan, David Kanipe attended Texas A&M University beginning in Sept. 1966, where he received a bachelor's of science degree in aerospace engineering in May 1970, followed by an M.S. in aerospace engineering in Aug. 1971. He accepted a position with NASA at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston in Nov. 1972. He served as the Chief of the Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Division in the Engineering Directorate at the Johnson Space Center until retirement in Dec. 2010. A month after his arrival at NASA, the last Apollo mission, Apollo 17, was launched. Obviously, that was exciting, but in terms of his career, the almost simultaneous commencement of the Space Shuttle Program in Nov. 1972 was to have far more impact. As a result, Kanipe was able to begin his career working on what he says was the most interesting project he could possibly imagine: the Space Shuttle. Kanipe became the Deputy Branch Chief of the Aerodynamics Branch in May 1990, and in March 1996 was appointed as Chief of the GN&C Analysis and Design Branch. Subsequently, he became the Deputy Chief of the Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Division in Dec. 1998 and was selected as Chief of the Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Division in the Engineering Directorate at the Johnson Space Center in Jan. 2001. Subsequently, due to his 38 years of experience in the Space Program covering many projects and programs, the Head of the Aerospace Engineering Department at Texas A&M University asked him to come to A&M and teach a senior capstone design course in spacecraft design. As he puts it, he spent 38 years at NASA preparing to teach this course.

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Injecting the Real World into the Capstone Design ExperienceThe engineering community, in many ways, has remained unchanged from previous decades: itis a fast paced environment that, above all else, requires technically proficient engineers.There are however, at least two aspects of engineering that have changed significantly in thepast 10-20 years. There is now a much larger dependence on teamwork and the influence ofthe principles of systems engineering. The student who graduates well grounded in thetechnical skills of his/her major will always be in demand. However, in addition to the sametechnical capabilities, the student who graduates with a clear understanding of the systemsengineering process and views teamwork as the standard way of doing business willautomatically enter the workforce with a distinct advantage. Thus, to be relevant in today’sworld, the Capstone Design experience must, as accurately as possible, reflect the environmentthe students will encounter when they report for work. Through the application of systemsengineering processes to guide the utilization of the technical skills they spent the first threeyears of their undergraduate life learning, the students will gain a much better appreciation forthe design process and its interdependencies, as well as the strengths, and limitations, ofteamwork. In addition, this approach allows the students with true leadership capability to riseto the surface. In many cases, these students may not even realize they were leadershipmaterial.Teaching such a design class, however, requires that the instructor have significant industryexperience. While these are standard industry processes and guidelines, every project isdifferent and practical experience with actual projects and designs, both successful andotherwise, provides the empirical background necessary to avoid slavish adherence to process.The paper will describe the key elements of a program that reflects the integratedcharacteristics outlined above. While not intended as a rigid template or structure, theobjective is to provide a starting point for a college or university desiring to establish such aprogram in its engineering curricula.

Kanipe, D. B. (2012, June), Injecting the Real World into the Capstone Design Experience Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21537

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