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Teaching The Global Positioning System Principles And Applications

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Innovations in the Aerospace Classroom

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1085.1 - 8.1085.5



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Paper Authors

author page

Frank Wicks

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

ASEE 2003-2271, Aerospace Engineering Division

“Teaching the Global Positioning System Principles and Applications” Professor Frank Wicks Mechanical Engineering Department, Union College


We live in one dimension of time and three dimensions of space as defined by the rotating and revolving spaceship which is our earth. Only recently have humans had accurate, affordable and portable instruments to measure time. During the last decade we suddenly have such an instrument to measure where we are in three dimensions of space.

The satellite and atomic clock based Global Positioning System is a technological marvel that has and will continue to change our lives in more ways than realized. There is a large proliferation of uses such as by the military for targeting and navigation, civilian uses in surveying and traffic monitoring and hobbyists for hiking and treasure hunts.

The author has found that there are large numbers of early adapters who are highly excited about the applications and accuracy. However, there are relatively few who appreciate and understand how it works and the marvelous convergence of aerospace, microwave, computer, mathematical and atomic clock technologies that have made the system possible.

Accordingly, the Global Positioning System should be introduced in various ways into engineering education. While the application is now well established in courses such as surveying, the author knows of no courses that have been developed to teach about the principles of operation.

Thus, the author has been introducing the principles behind the operation in various courses ranging from freshman engineering to a graduate course in Engineering Analysis. He has also been offering GPS related lectures during Engineer’s Week programs. This paper will present some GPS related instruction that has been used. It also offers some ideas for further curriculum development to make students and engineers more familiar with this new marvel and additional possibilities.

Wicks, F. (2003, June), Teaching The Global Positioning System Principles And Applications Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12092

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