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Introduction To Aerodynamics: A Design/Build/Test Experience For Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Students

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Incorporating Projects into the Curriculum

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.840.1 - 11.840.13



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Paper Authors


B. Terry Beck Kansas State University

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B. TERRY BECK is a Professor of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Kansas State University and teaches courses in the fluid and thermal sciences. He conducts research in the development and application of optical measurement techniques, including laser velocimetry and laser-based diagnostic testing for industrial applications. Dr. Beck received his B.S. (1971), M.S. (1974), and Ph.D. (1978) degrees in mechanical engineering from Oakland University.

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

Introduction to Aerodynamics: A Design/Build/Test Experience for Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Students Abstract

This paper presents the authors experience with a senior elective introductory course in Aerodynamics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Kansas State University. The course takes a hands-on experiential engineering design approach, loosely designated the “Wright Brother’s approach” in which the students are introduced very early in the semester to relevant wing lift, drag, and pitching moment aerodynamic data obtained from wind tunnel laboratory testing. Throughout the semester, additional experiments are conducted and aerodynamic theory is progressively introduced to explain experimental results or to address necessary design issues as they arise. The course is further structured around a semester team design project in which students gradually develop their own airplane design (a glider model) based on the aerodynamic principles, and practical design topics, that are introduced throughout the semester. Subsequently, each design team constructs a working model of their glider design, and these models are flight tested at the end of the semester. Course topics introduced during the semester include basic wind tunnel testing and instrumentation, airplane stability and tail design, wing and fuselage design, basic propeller theory, and introductory numerical vortex panel theory, along with other topics such as wind tunnel design, bird flight and insect flight. The mix of practical hands-on design and aerodynamic theory that this course offers has been well- received by students.


Aerodynamics represents an interesting and challenging course subject for undergraduate engineering students. It is closely related to aeronautics, which crosses over into many different disciplines of engineering including mechanical, electrical and electronics, controls, power systems and propulsion, heat transfer, and structural engineering. Applications of aerodynamics are also widely varied and diverse, including airplane design, automotive design, rocketry, and sailing, to mention but a few of the related areas that are touched by aerodynamic phenomena. To do justice to the subject invariably requires some significant attention to experimentation, not only to discover and demonstrate the associated aerodynamic principles, but to validate how well aerodynamic theory represents real physical characteristics. In an engineering program that includes a full aerospace program, this subject and the related topic areas would invariably be developed in a multiple course sequence. Doing justice to the subject of aerodynamics is particularly challenging when all the relevant topics must be focused into a single course, rather than part of a full aerospace program course sequence. The challenge is then to find the proper balance between the development of aerodynamic theory and laboratory application, with sufficient practical experience to make the subject more meaningful than a pure theoretical treatment would offer. The main objective of this paper is to present this authors experience with a senior elective introductory course in Aerodynamics, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Kansas State University, which appears to successfully meet this challenge.

Beck, B. T. (2006, June), Introduction To Aerodynamics: A Design/Build/Test Experience For Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1182

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