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Unconventional Applications of Introductory-Level Aerospace Engineering Concepts: Evaluating Student Engagement and Performance in a Free-Response Exam Format

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

AERO 5: Student Success

Tagged Division

Aerospace Division (AERO)

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Paper Authors


Benjamin Casillas Texas A&M University

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Ben Casillas is a senior aerospace engineering major at Texas A&M University. As an undergraduate researcher at the NUANCED Laboratory, their work focuses on novel presentations of introductory-level curriculum. Outside the lab, their interests include chemical rocket propulsion, spaceflight human systems integration, digital art, and music composition.

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Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Kristi J. Shryock, Ph.D., is the Frank and Jean Raymond Foundation Inc. Endowed Associate Professor in Multidisciplinary Engineering and Affiliated Faculty in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She also serves as Director of the Novel Unconventional Aerospace Applications iN Core Educational Disciplines (NUA2NCED) Lab and of the Craig and Galen Brown Engineering Honors Program and National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars Program. She has made extensive contributions to the methodology of forming the engineer of the future through her work in creating strategies to recruit, retain, and graduate engineering students. The network of transformational strategies she has developed addresses informing early, preparation for success, increasing diversity of the field, establishing strong identity as an engineer, and enhancing critical thinking and professional skills.

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Engineering is a broad field that covers a wide range of unique disciplines. Accordingly, many institutions of higher education divide engineering into separate departments, placing students into preset curriculum tracks with a particular focus. Still, many important skills are applicable across different fields, and skilled engineers develop a more complete understanding of the interactions and similarities between disciplines. In engineering programs such as that of [Institution], students are placed in their specific departments early in their education, with much of their curriculum oriented towards their individual field. The [XX] Laboratory in the Department of Aerospace Engineering was established as part of a broader effort to encourage students to see the applicability of their instruction beyond the traditional boundaries of aerospace engineering. This study seeks to determine whether exam-format problems that present aerospace engineering concepts in unconventional contexts can be used to improve students’ understanding of and engagement in their course curriculum. In particular, the focus is on introductory-level course content; namely, AERO [XXX], which covers basic aerodynamic principles. A set of exam-format problems are devised to test students’ skills in simple aerodynamic analysis. Participants are divided into an experimental and a control group. Those in the experimental group are presented with a problem applying aerodynamic principles to a sailboat, while those in the control group are given a similar problem applied to an ordinary aircraft scenario. Participants are then asked to complete a subsequent problem, common to both groups, which tests similar skills at a higher difficulty level. The students’ performance on both the first and second problem is assessed and compared between the two groups, while auxiliary surveys are used to probe students’ subjective assessment of the experiment. It is expected that the presentation of the first problem may have a subtle influence on students’ approach to and performance on the second problem. The unconventional first problem may prime students to “think outside the box” and be better prepared to complete the more challenging and unfamiliar second problem, compared to those who complete the conventional first problem.

Casillas, B., & Shryock, K. J. (2023, June), Unconventional Applications of Introductory-Level Aerospace Engineering Concepts: Evaluating Student Engagement and Performance in a Free-Response Exam Format Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--44525

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