June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.1332.1 - 11.1332.14
THE STUDENT SPACE SYSTEMS FABRICATION LABORATORY: AN APPROACH TO SPACE SYSTEMS ENGINEERING EDUCATION
The Student Space Systems Fabrication Laboratory (S3FL) is a student-led organization dedicated to providing students with practical space systems design and fabrication experience not readily available through the usual academic curriculum. S3FL’s approach is to enhance education by coupling classroom knowledge with practicum experience involving real engineering design, analysis, test, fabrication, integration, and operation of actual flight vehicles and space payloads. Each year, S3FL involves over a hundred undergraduate and graduate students in activities ranging from balloon payloads to microgravity experiments to nanosatellites. By participating in the end-to-end development of complete space systems, students acquire knowledge and expertise that would otherwise take years of post-graduate experience to be achieved.
A growing concern in recent years is that of the United States losing its strength in the science and engineering fields. Although the demand for workers with scientific and engineering backgrounds continues to grow, the number of undergraduate U.S. citizens training in these fields is declining, while at the same time many current members of the technical workforce are expected to retire within the next 20 years.1, 2 These disturbing trends are particularly apparent in the aerospace sector, where former NASA director Sean O’Keefe has stated that NASA is struggling with a workforce crisis with three times as many science and technology workers over 60 years of age than under 30 years of age.3 Other government agencies and the aerospace industrial sector are facing a similar problem, and this has far-reaching, negative implications for the country’s economic welfare and national security.4 For the U.S. to maintain and continue developing an effective and internationally competitive aerospace workforce, students must be both attracted to the aerospace field and provided the opportunity to rapidly climb the learning curve.
One response to this need is to more rapidly and better train students by means of realistic and intensive design-build-test activities. Since 1998, the Student Space Systems Fabrication Laboratory (S3FL) at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering has combined a formal design process with student creativity and spontaneity to train and provide students with opportunities for research in space system design and development.5 This paper describes S3FL’s resources and operations, outlines the lab’s educational and design philosophy, and discusses the technical, teamwork, communication, and project management skills developed through S3FL. The paper also discusses how these traits combine to make students wiser engineers and better qualified to serve as the nation’s future space workforce.
Liu, T., & Deline, C., & Ramos, R., & Sandoval, S., & Smetana, A., & Gilchrist, B., & Washabaugh, P., & Renno, N. (2006, June), The Student Space Systems Fabrication Laboratory: An Approach To Space Systems Engineering Education Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1102
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