Asee peer logo

Interconnecting the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Through An Integrated Multicourse Model Rocketry Project

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Laboratory Experiences in Mechanical, Materials and Thermal Systems

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.798.1 - 23.798.21



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Matthew J. Traum Milwaukee School of Engineering Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Matthew J. Traum is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). He received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [2007] where he held a research assistantship at MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN). At MIT he invented a new nano-enabled garment to provide simultaneous ballistic and thermal protection to infantry soldiers. Dr. Traum also holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT [2003] with a focus on cryogenics and two bachelor’s degrees from the University of California, Irvine [2001]: one in mechanical engineering and the second in aerospace engineering. In addition, he attended the University of Bristol, UK as a non-matriculating visiting scholar where he completed an M.Eng thesis in the Department of Aerospace Engineering [2000] on low-speed rotorcraft control. Prior to his appointment at MSOE, Dr. Traum was a founding faculty member of the Mechanical and Energy Engineering Department at the University of North Texas where he established an externally-funded researcher incubator that trained undergraduates how to perform experimental research and encouraged their matriculation to graduate school. Dr. Traum also serves as the founding Chief Technology Officer at EASENET, a start-up renewable energy company he co-founded with his former students to commercialize residential scale waste-to-energy biomass processor systems.

visit author page


Vincent C Prantil Milwaukee School of Engineering

visit author page

Dr. Vincent Prantil earned his BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Mechanical And Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. He has worked as a senior member of technical staff in the Applied Mechanics and Materials Modeling Directorates at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California where he was a co-recipient of the R&D100 Award for development of Microstructure-Property Model Software in 2000. He has published 31 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers in the areas of finite element analysis, crystal plasticity, response of dry granular materials, fluid power hydraulics, heat treatment distortion, and teaching methods for undergraduate mechanics curricula. He has been a faculty member at the Milwaukee School of Engineering since 2000 in the Mechanical Engineering Department where he has taught 20 courses ranging from undergraduate mechanics, dynamics, modeling, simulation, finite element analysis and numerical methods to capstone design. In addition to teaching undergraduate engineering core curriculum courses, Dr. Prantil is currently co-authoring a book on Finite Element Simulation of Case Studies for Undergraduates.

visit author page


William C Farrow Milwaukee School of Engineering

visit author page

Dr. WILLIAM C. FARROW has been teaching at the Milwaukee School of Engineering full time for 10 years in the Mechanical Engineering department. Besides teaching courses related to engineering design and engineering mechanics he works with students pursuing aerospace career goals. Dr. Farrow has worked for McDonnell Aircraft Comp., Eaton Corporation’s Corporate Research Division, and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab as a Faculty Research Fellow.

visit author page

author page

Hope Leigh Weiss Milwaukee School of Engineering

Download Paper |


Enabling Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Interconnectivity Through An Integrated Multicourse Model Rocketry ProjectAbstractConventional undergraduate mechanical engineering curricula are split into topical tracks where,from the students’ perspective, each division has limited interconnectivity or overlap with theothers. To provide students a more coherent and cohesive view, we created and delivered amulticourse curriculum-integrated engineering project that permeates and unifies five differentclasses within our undergraduate curriculum: 1) Design, 2) Dynamics, 3) Numerical Methods, 4)Fluid Mechanics, and 5) Thermodynamics. Students enrolled in classes containing rocket projectcontent design, build, flight test, and analyze model rockets through hands-on exercises designedto enhance their awareness of topical connectivity across the mechanical engineering curriculum.These activities challenge students to work on different aspects of the same rocket project acrossall four years of their degree program.Our method is to redesign discrete laboratory exercises already found in five existing requiredmechanical engineering courses to integrate the project within our existing curriculum withoutneed for administrative changes (i.e., no course catalog changes). At the end of each course,students evaluate the rockets they designed, analyze their design decisions, and reflect on theimpacts their choices had on rocket performance using distinct tools from the discipline of eachunique course.Among the novel aspects of our approach is to expand beyond a two-course project sequencespanning just one academic year, a technique already used in many engineering curricula.Instead, our project is integrated into a multi-year five-required-course sequence with at least onecourse appearing in each year of the four-year mechanical engineering curriculum. We expectthis approach to engender significant benefits to student learning. First, it promotes “spacedrepetition”, wherein learners encounter the same material in briefer sessions spread over a longertime periods rather than the study of information in single blocks, as many engineering curriculado. Second, our approach allows students to realize the interdisciplinary nature of engineeringproblems, which discrete course subjects artificially isolate. Our approach enables students toapply what they have learned in previous classes to solve new aspects of the same project.Third, this project demonstrates the true iterative nature of engineering design and modeldevelopment wherein students reassess their modeling assumptions and perform necessarilymore detailed experiments to validate their conceptual design changes.Both direct and indirect assessments were used to evaluate our program. We tracked the numberof students enrolled in rocket project courses who joined aerospace student organizations likeAIAA and who took aerospace industry internships or jobs. We also tracked the performance ofstudent-built rockets in courses where rocket launches were part of the exercise. With respect toindirect assessment, we report results of a student survey taken at the end of each class withrocket project content in which the students evaluate several metrics including their own 1)interest, 2) understanding, 3) perceived workload, 4) appreciation of course interconnectivity,and 5) level of project enjoyment.

Traum, M. J., & Prantil, V. C., & Farrow, W. C., & Weiss, H. L. (2013, June), Interconnecting the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Through An Integrated Multicourse Model Rocketry Project Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19812

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015