Asee peer logo

Learning to Innovate Across Disciplines: A Case Study on Three Team Project Experiences

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

Aerospace Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.859.1 - 23.859.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Juan Pablo Afman Afman Georgia Institute of Technology


Narayanan M. Komerath Georgia Institute of Technology

visit author page

Professor Dr. Narayanan Komerath is a professor of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, and director of the Experimental Aerodynamics and Concepts Group and the Micro Renewable Energy Systems Laboratory. He has over 300 publications, over 120 of them peer-reviewed. He holds three U.S. patents, and has guided fifteen Ph.D.s, more than 50 M.S.s and more than 160 undergraduate research special problem projects. He is a former chair of the Aerospace Division.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Learning to Innovate Across Disciplines:   A Case Study on Three Team Project Experiences   This is a student‐led paper summarizing a case study on how present‐day engineering students learn what is needed to innovate solutions, going well beyond what is usually taught in course lectures.  It is set in the context of an aerospace engineering school in an American university, with typically large class sizes and a school culture that emphasizes research and instruction.   Three projects are included in the study, progressing  in level of complexity. There was some commonality in participants between the three.   1. A large open‐ended advanced concept development exercise in an upper‐division course 2. A Capstone Design project  3. A  professional society’s international‐level vehicle design team competition.   The open‐ended assignment was to do the conceptual design and then focus on the aerodynamics aspects of a missile defense system for the continental United States. This was done in teams of two, in about 6 weeks, with weekly reporting, discussion and integration with course material that was learned just in time to do the high speed aerodynamics portions. A short primer on strategic defense issues set the context for the assignment, starting with the Cold War concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, the treaties on anti‐ballistic missiles and space weapons, the Strategic Defense Initiative, the end of the Cold War, and the rise of other threats leading up to the present, with upcoming capabilities and threats discussed.  Thus the learning here was integrative in depth that it used everything learned in the curriculum, and broad in demanding that students investigate current capabilities and programs, and make engineering judgments to design an advanced concept system where there is no precedent in the published literature.   The Capstone Design is part of the regular curriculum, and was done in teams of five students each. This was structured to allow grading, and was tied closely to industry practices and existing vehicle systems.  Thus the emphasis was on learning the principles and processes of design, and the workplace issues of working in diverse teams.   The third case is that of a international‐level vehicle design competition held annually under the auspices of an international professional society. Details are suppressed to allow blind review. The student authors were among the team that won first place, and they look back at how they learned enough to innovate the winning aspects of the design, as well as how to do the systematic progression needed to complete the project to the standards of quality and timeliness required to excel.    

Afman, J. P., & Komerath, N. M. (2013, June), Learning to Innovate Across Disciplines: A Case Study on Three Team Project Experiences Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19873

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