Development of a Course Entitled:  Introduction to Aerospace Engineering

PI: Douglas S. Cairns, Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, Montana State University

This project will utilize the following approach to be conducted by a combination of the PI and a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), with additional support of undergraduate students.

Spring Semester 2009

The PI will conduct a more thorough research of aerospace programs throughout the country, with an emphasis on those programs within the closest geographical proximity. The goal of this research will be to strengthen the Aerospace Minor. The PI may engage a Graduate Teaching Assistant or undergraduate researcher for some legwork and aerospace program evaluations. The PI will meet with the instructors of the elective courses for the Aerospace Minor. This research will be conducted to determine what course content is most needed to strengthen the elective courses for the Aerospace Minor. There are several ways to implement this course, and the best way will be part of the pedagogical research conducted in this portion. One approach would be to have a single faculty member teaching the course. The PI is very well suited for this, but given the diverse topics available in the MSU Aerospace Minor, this may not be ideal.

Another way might be to have a �team teaching� approach. Several faculty members have already approached the PI with a desire to participate in teaching aerospace related topics. The PI has been involved in many team teaching scenarios. Some experiences have been good, some have been bad. In general, students do not like team teaching (based on student evaluations of courses), but given the breadth of the MSU Aerospace Minor, this may be the best plan. In any event, it will be a way for various faculty participating in the Aerospace Minor to come together with the purpose of producing viable students for the aerospace workforce.

The PI will begin to contact aerospace companies (in Montana and nationally) to determine their desire to participate in the Introduction to Aerospace Engineering course. Several companies have already contributed in our aerospace engineering courses (e.g. Boeing, CDI), and are keen to continue. This includes guest lecturing and company tours.

Team or individual projects could be part of the course. In the PI�s experience, this is not always an efficient use of time, especially for a cornerstone course of this breadth. Projects are popular with students, but may be best suited for the elective courses. However, the merits and implementation of projects will be studied for the Introduction to Aerospace Engineering course.

A framework and format for the Introduction to Aerospace Engineering course will be established by the end of the spring 2009 semester at MSU. Technical topics could include aerodynamics (incompressible and compressible), gas dynamics, space dynamics, aerospace structural design and analysis philosophy, aerospace instrumentation and controls, etc. Important, but less focused topics may include systems engineering, aerospace project management, documentation, etc. may be developed for the course, depending on the research conducted in Spring 2009.

Summer 2009

Substantial work will be done during the summer of 2009 to develop the specifics of the Introduction to Aerospace Engineering course, based on background research conducted in Spring 2009. The goal by the end of the summer will be to develop the syllabus details and logistics of the Introduction to Aerospace Engineering. Subject matter, course format, course materials (textbook or no textbook?), web based materials, etc will all be researched and established during this time.

Fall 2009

Assuming all goes well for the proposed Spring 2009and Summer 2009 activities, the course could be available and implemented for the Fall 2009 semester. The maturity and feasibility of this should be known by mid summer 2009. In any event, the PI will commit to having this course fully developed by the Spring 2010 semester. The initial offering will have a full time GTA to support the anticipated diversity of this course.

Contact Information

Mail:Douglas S. Cairns
Mechanical & Industrial Engineering Department
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
E-mail:Douglas Cairns
Phone:(406) 994-6285

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Updated February 20, 2009