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Using Model Rocketry To Introduce Students To Aerospace Engineering

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1265.1 - 7.1265.10



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Eugene Niemi

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Session 2793

Using Model Rocketry to Introduce Students to Aerospace Engineering

Eugene E. Niemi, Jr. Mechanical Engineering Department University of Massachusetts Lowell Lowell, MA 01854

Abstract This paper summarizes five years of experiences with a mini-design module intended to develop the interest of freshmen in aerospace engineering as a career. Model rocketry was one of several modules that students participated in during the course Introduction to Engineering: Design, taught at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The students were given a project based on designing a reconnaissance rocket to accomplish a certain mission, as outlined below.

The rocket had to be designed to rise vertically as high as possible (within constraints) to take wide-angle photos of military emplacements in surrounding countries. The rocket had to deploy a parachute system to return it safely back to earth. It had to have a short total time of flight to minimize exposure time to enemy fire trying to destroy the rocket. This was especially important during the descent phase when the rocket would be moving slowly.

The students had to build a small model rocket from a commercially available kit, make appropriate engine choices, and modify a parachute recovery system and other rocket features to achieve the somewhat conflicting objectives of high altitude and short time of flight. The course procedures, including lectures on dynamics and fluid mechanics appropriate to the freshman level are described, together with experiences gained during the rocket launches. Several clever ideas that the students developed to achieve the desired objectives are described in the paper. Approximately twenty-five students participated each year.

Classroom evaluations conducted with the students at the end of the course each year showed that the students’ interest in aerospace and mechanical engineering was heightened as a result of the rocketry module.

I. Introduction A perennial problem facing engineering educators is how to maintain the freshmen students’ interest in engineering during the time they are taking basic science, mathematics, and humanities courses. This is compounded by the fact that the students’ knowledge of science and mathematics is too basic to present much engineering information at a meaningful level. Most schools attempt to maintain this interest by offering Introduction to Engineering courses, with Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ã 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Niemi, E. (2002, June), Using Model Rocketry To Introduce Students To Aerospace Engineering Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11142

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