AE-DAC Summary

Aerospace Engineering – Design Across the Curriculum
C. D. Hall, N. Hovakimyan, W. H. Mason, and M. Patil
Project Summary:
This proposal is for the development of a plan to restructure the undergraduate Aerospace
Engineering (AE) curriculum in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at
Virginia Tech. The AE curriculum in its present form reflects the well-established
paradigm of establishing a foundation of engineering science skills, and only then
introducing the professional skills required of practicing aerospace engineers. This
finishing currently takes place in the senior year capstone design course, where students
work in teams to design aerospace vehicles. This course covers many of the most
important skills our graduates require, such as communications, multidisciplinary
interactions, critical thinking, and teamwork. For several years, we have included
freshmen in these senior design teams during the second semester, and we have observed
that women and minorities have been over-represented in these self-selected freshmen,
and that those who have gone on to complete the AE curriculum have excelled. The goal
of this program is to prepare a detailed plan to distribute the introduction of these
concepts throughout the curriculum by incorporating team design projects in every year
of the undergraduate curriculum. The plan will include a specific assessment plan
intended to determine the effectiveness of the implementation.
Intellectual Merit of the Proposed Activity
The proposed program will definitely lead to the restructuring of one specific Aerospace
Engineering curriculum, thereby impacting the education of hundreds of future graduates.
However, the intellectual merit goes beyond this worthy goal, as we aim to evaluate prior
restructuring in other engineering curricula, to incorporate elements of non-engineering
design-related curricula, and to establish measures of effectiveness that will characterize
the impact of implementing the planned curriculum restructuring.
Broader Impacts of the Proposed Activity
The primary broad impact of this program is to enhance the undergraduate experience of
hundreds of aerospace engineering graduates at Virginia Tech. Introduction of design
teams at an earlier point in the curriculum will also increase the numbers of women and
minorities in the program. Publication of undergraduate research resulting from these
design projects will also impact other aerospace engineering students and faculty.
Furthermore, communication of the results of this program to the engineering education
community will serve to affect engineering education across the nation and abroad.