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Teaching Aerospace Engineering In Mechanical Engineering

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1143.1 - 13.1143.15



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Paper Authors


Craig Somerton Michigan State University

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Craig W. Somerton is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Undergraduate Program for Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. He teaches in the area of thermal engineering including thermodynamics, heat transfer, and thermal design. He also teaches the capstone design course for the department. Dr. Somerton has research interests in computer design of thermal systems, transport phenomena in porous media, and application of continuous quality improvement principles to engineering education. He received his B.S. in 1976, his M.S. in 1979, and his Ph.D. in 1982, all in engineering from UCLA.

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

Teaching Aerospace Engineering in Mechanical Engineering Introduction With the limited number of undergraduate programs in aerospace engineering, it has fallen to many mechanical engineering programs to provide the engineers for the aerospace industry. This makes sense in that 80-90% of the engineering science topics are the same in both an aerospace engineering bachelor’s degree program and a mechanical engineering program. Much of the difference between the two programs lies in the design/application aspects of the curriculum. With mechanical engineering programs needing to provide engineers for the aerospace industry, it seems wise to include aerospace engineering courses as technical electives. Such is the case at Michigan State University, where a course entitled Aerospace Engineering Fundamentals is available to the students. This paper deals with how one instructor developed such a course.

This paper begins with the formulation of course goals. How these course goals were addressed is then presented. This will include sample assignments and handouts. Special emphasis is placed on how students were motivated for studying aerospace engineering. The paper concludes by presenting and discussing student feedback.

Development of Course Goals ME 440 Aerospace Engineering Fundamentals is a three credit senior level course that serves as a senior elective for the BSME requirements. It has been a popular course with over 1/3 of the annual BSME graduates (about 50) enrolling in the course. When Michigan State University was on quarters, a three course sequence in aerospace engineering existed that covered aerodynamics, propulsion, and design. The current course was established in the transition to semesters, but staffing issues led to it being rarely taught and was nearly dropped from the curriculum. At the last moment, this was avoided due to a faculty member stepping forward to claim the course and student/employer input on the need for such a course. The current course description is:

Aerodynamics, propulsion, and flight mechanics. Vehicle and propulsion engine performance and design characteristics.

It has a corequisite of fluid mechanics and prerequisites of thermodynamics and dynamics. The primary instructor of the course has taught it primarily as an air breathing engine course. The assignment of the course to this paper’s author was due to a sabbatical leave. In reviewing the above course description, the author felt that a course more consistent with the description needed to be delivered. The author has extensive alumni contacts and input was sought from those alumni in the aerospace industry (such companies as Boeing, GE Aviation, Adam Aircraft, Lockheed-Martin) as to what should be the content in a single aerospace engineering course taken by a mechanical engineer entering the aerospace industry. The primary input received was to present a course that shows mechanical engineering majors how their mechanical engineering science applies to aerospace. A secondary input was to introduce students to the history of aviation, space flight, and the aerospace industry.

Somerton, C. (2008, June), Teaching Aerospace Engineering In Mechanical Engineering Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3820

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