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Practical Engineering Experience in Aircraft Structural Design

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Aerospace Technical Session 2

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1234.1 - 26.1234.17



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Paper Authors


Masoud Rais-Rohani Mississippi State University

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Masoud Rais-Rohani is the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies and Professor of Aerospace Engineering in the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. Rais-Rohani earned his Ph.D. degree in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech in 1991. He has taught courses mainly in the areas of aerospace structures, mechanics, and design optimization. He has made extensive use of experiential learning and computer applications in his courses, particularly the senior-level aerospace structural design course.

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Practical Engineering Experience in Aircraft Structural Design Abstract for Aerospace Division 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and ExpositionIn many lecture-based, senior-level engineering courses, the emphasis on theory and engineeringscience often excludes opportunities for introducing practical engineering experience that couldbe of significant value to the students as future engineers. For a period of nearly two decades, theauthor has relied on experiential learning through design, prototype development, and testing asa way of integrating practical engineering experience into a senior-level course on AerospaceStructural Design. A design-build-test project has been used to integrate the important elementsof the course curriculum in a way that allows students to not only put what they have learned intoa practical engineering application, but to experience many other important aspects ofengineering (technical communication, attention to manufacturability, variability in themanufactured components, etc.), which they might not do, otherwise.This paper will discuss the genesis and evolution of a “panel project” that began as a basichands-on activity to give students some understanding of the impressive load carryingcapabilities of thin-walled composite shapes (e.g., Zee sections, Hat sections) in supporting axialcompressive loads several thousand times greater than their weights. It eventually grow into afairly complete engineering project requiring students to define the panel concept, in terms of theshape of stringers and the form of attachment to the skin, to detailed analysis that included thedetermination of both local and global failure loads and modes. The analysis computer programdeveloped was then coupled with an optimization code allowing the students to determine theoptimum size of each stringer element to minimize the weight of the panel. With the optimumdesign specifications determined, students proceed to construction (prototype development) ofthe design (typically 3 samples per team). This is followed by preparation of each panel as a testarticle, which is then tested to failure in a laboratory setting. While collecting data and observingthe panel’s response under the applied load, students have the opportunity to recall key conceptscovered in the course and how they relate to the experimental observations. The overallexperience is captured into separate written project reports (one per team) and presented orally tothe entire class.Project assessment includes a detailed grading system that considers all the major elements of theproject, ranging from the engineering analysis, writing the necessary computer code,determination of the optimum design, rigor and attention to the fabrication of the individualpanel samples, predicted versus actual ultimate load to technical writing and oral presentation.With the help of the data collected over the many years, the paper will also provide insight intothe overall level of success in introducing a practical engineering experience into aerospacestructural design course, students’ feedback on the various aspects of the project, and how suchan experience led to the development of a companion project in an introduction to aerospaceengineering course at the freshman level.

Rais-Rohani, M. (2015, June), Practical Engineering Experience in Aircraft Structural Design Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24571

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