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The Dynamics Summer School – A Unique Educational Program

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovative Mechanics Education Programs and Projects

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1411.1 - 12.1411.14



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Paper Authors


Phillip Cornwell Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Phillip Cornwell is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1989 and his present interests include structural dynamics, structural health monitoring, and undergraduate engineering education. Dr. Cornwell has received an SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award in 1992, and the Dean’s Outstanding Teacher award at Rose-Hulman in 2000.

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Charles Farrar Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Chuck Farrar has 25 years experience as a technical staff member, project leader, and team leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory. While at Los Alamos, he earned a Ph. D. in civil engineering from the University of New Mexico in 1988. He is currently working jointly with engineering faculty at University of California, San Diego to develop the Los Alamos/UCSD Engineering Institute with a research focus on Damage Prognosis. This initiative is also developing a formal, degree-granting educational program in the closely related areas of validated simulations and structural health monitoring.

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Peter Avitabile University of Massachusetts-Lowell

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Peter Avitabile is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department and the Director of the Modal Analysis and Controls Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He is a Registered Professional Engineer with a BS, MS and Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering and a member of ASEE, ASME and SEM.

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

The Dynamics Summer School – A Unique Educational Program

The Los Alamos Dynamics Summer School (LADSS), which is funded by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), is a unique nine-week program that was initiated in 2000 to focus a select group of upper level undergraduate students and first year graduate students on the broad fields of engineering dynamics with specific applications to structural diagnostics, non-destructive evaluation and manufacturing process modeling. The summer school activities include four basic elements: lectures on basic fundamental engineering topics; a distinguished lecturer series on “cutting edge research”; a mini-project consisting of a modal test, finite element analysis, model correlation and validation of a small test structure; and a research project that results in a conference paper and presentation. This paper will present the details of the program, how it has evolved over the past seven years, and how it is assessed. The mini-project will be discussed in detail because this project could easily be adapted to an academic course in finite element analysis or experimental modal analysis.


The authors of the National Academy of Science report Rising above the Gathering Storm1 write with urgency of the need for the United States to strengthen the scientific and technical building blocks that lead to economic prosperity. The number of Master’s and Ph.D. degrees awarded in engineering has decreased approximately 7% and 13%, respectively, from 1996 to 20012 and the number of Ph.D.’s awarded in mechanical engineering has decreased approximately 19% from 1996 to 20043. Engineering dynamics, which encompasses areas such as flight dynamics, vibration isolation for precision manufacturing, earthquake engineering, structural health monitoring, signal processing, and experimental modal analysis is naturally affected by this decrease in numbers. This trend is of particular importance to Los Alamos National Laboratory because of its reliance on employees with advanced degrees. The problem is further exasperated by the need for most employees of LANL to be US citizens so they are able to obtain the requisite security clearances. The Los Alamos Dynamics Summer School (LADSS) is an innovative, proactive approach that is designed to not only benefit the students through their educational experience, but also to motivate them to attend graduate school and to make the students aware of career possibilities in defense-related industries after they have completed their graduate studies. Students in the program are paid the same as regular LANL summer students, but there are significant educational aspects to the program as discussed below.

Description of the Summer School

The first LADSS took place in the summer of 2000 and was an eight-week program involving 13 students. The program is now in its seventh year and has grown to be nine weeks long involving 21 students. A total of 111 students have participated in the program. The program is available to U.S. students who have completed their junior year in college up to those completing their first year of graduate school. Students typically apply to the program in November and December, and offers are made by the end of January. Because one of the objectives of the program is to motivate students to go to graduate school, preference is usually given to students who are not yet in graduate school. Thus far, the students participating in the program have been

Cornwell, P., & Farrar, C., & Avitabile, P. (2007, June), The Dynamics Summer School – A Unique Educational Program Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1485

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