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Using Computer Aided Design To Enhance Undergraduate Engineering Education

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.575.1 - 4.575.6

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Paper Authors

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Bobby G. Crawford

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

Session 2625

Using Computer-Aided Design to Enhance Undergraduate Engineering Education

Bobby G. Crawford United States Military Academy


This paper describes the local development and use of a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software program as an enhancement to an undergraduate engineering design project. The program was used in the helicopter aeronautics course at the United States Military Academy. The motivation behind the development of this program was the desire to provide students with a useful, visually driven design tool that would allow them to see and increase their understanding of the effects of different design parameters on a conceptual rotor design. The time required for in-depth study and modeling of these parameters was beyond that currently available in the course. The program was successfully utilized and student and instructor feedback gathered for future improvements.

I. Purpose

The WEST POINT ROTOR DESIGNER was written to supplement the design instruction at the United States Military Academy in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering’s Helicopter Aeronautics course. The course is an introduction to basic aerodynamic theory applied to a rotating wing. Mid-way through the course, students are given an open-ended, mini- design in which they must design a rotor system to support a given load in a hover configuration and perform a cursory, forward-flight performance analysis.

Using the blade element approach, the students can easily devise a spreadsheet or write a program to design for fundamental rotor system parameters such as number of blades, rotor diameter, blade chord, root cutout and tip speed. Students were allowed to do this using a spreadsheet or by writing an iterative program. Given only five lessons, the students can easily reach the point of diminishing returns when they attempt to modify their simple programs to consider the effects of blade taper and aerodynamic and geometric twist. The WEST POINT ROTOR DESIGNER was written to bridge this gap and allow students to see the effects of minute changes to their designs without spending an undue amount of time affecting those changes.

II. The Design Problem

The design problem covered five out of 40 course lessons and spanned a period of 19 days. The problem posed to the students consisted of a fictional scenario in which the U.S. Army had decided to retrofit the UH-1 helicopter. All design teams were notionally in place except the rotor design team. The students were organized in 2-3 person teams and given the task of proposing a conceptual rotor design for the new aircraft.

Crawford, B. G. (1999, June), Using Computer Aided Design To Enhance Undergraduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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