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Redefining Assessment Formats to Replicate Real-world Aerospace Engineering Applications

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Teaching Methodology & Assessment 1

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Amelia Greig University of Texas at El Paso

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Dr. Amelia Greig has degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Science from the University of Adelaide, and a PhD in Physics from the Australian National University. She currently leads the small satellite and propulsion research activities at the University of Texas at El Paso as part of the Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR). Dr. Greig has been interested in engineering education research since learning how effective humor can be in the classroom as an undergraduate student.

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Traditional teaching methods within engineering are based around the repetitive solution of a large number of targeted problems designed to teach a specific mathematical method or solution technique. While this approach is very effective in teaching the specific methods and techniques it is targeted at, the formative pathways to establish the overall application to complex engineering problems seen in the industry are not developed. Project-based learning is one effective pedagogical tool that establishes connections between the engineering curriculum and industry practices. However, adjustments to the curriculum to support project based learning often overlook the format of the corresponding assessment items. Assessment items remain in a generic format that is only relevant to a classroom setting and is not synergistic with industry practices. Here, three case studies on the use of alternative assessment formats to better represent real-world applications are presented. The first case study requires the submission of problem solutions in the form of a technical memo and was employed in two senior undergraduate courses on aerospace propulsion in two different schools. Instead of simply presenting the solution as a hand-calculations, code, or simulation results, the solution is presented in the form of a technical memo addressed to the professor. This not only assesses the technical ability of the student, but also introduces the students to a communication method commonly used in industry and practice in technical solution communication. The second case study comes from two separate years for a graduate level class in spacecraft thermal design that employed project-based learning through a semester long design project. All assessment items for the course were designed to replicate preparation for and participation in a peer-reviewed technical conference. A call for papers was distributed, which students responded to first through an abstract and then a draft paper. A double-blind peer review was performed within the class to include critical analysis practice. The course culminated in a series of two ‘conference days’, the first involving oral presentations and the second involving an interactive poster session. The third case study comes from a graduate level course in advanced aerospace propulsion that also employs project based learning. Here, part of the assessment for the course was designed around a funding call from a fictional research agency. Student first prepared a white paper responding to the call, which was then developed further into a complete proposal. This required the students to not only present a unique and justified technical solution, but also required analysis of the practicality of developing the solution in a lab setting within given time and budget constraints. In all cases, the technical assessment aspect is retained but the presentation of the assessable results is modified to closely represent different scenarios graduate engineers are likely to experience during their careers. This ensures the students not only become familiar with the hard technical skills required for aerospace engineering, but also the soft skills required to support their functional roles within a true engineering career.

Greig, A. (2021, July), Redefining Assessment Formats to Replicate Real-world Aerospace Engineering Applications Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37642

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