AIAA Tennessee Section Holds Trends in Engineering Education Panel
By Taylor Swanson
In March, the AIAA Tennessee Section held a panel discussion on trends in engineering education. Panelists were Dr. Amrutur Anilkumar from Vanderbilt University; Prof. Wayne Johnson of Tennessee Technological University; Prof. Matthew Mensch of University of Tennesse, Knoxville; Prof. Trevor Moeller of University of Tennessee Space Institute; and Michael Glennon of Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC). Dr. Taylor Swanson, also of AEDC, moderated the panel and asked several questions before inviting questions from the audience.
Several common themes emerged in the discussion. Engineering education has changed greatly, not just over a long time, but in recent years. Four years of undergraduate school are not enough to teach all that is desired: technical competencies inside and outside the major, nontechnical skills including interpersonal and business, and interdisciplinary knowledge. Many of those come later in graduate school, through student design groups, or real-world experience acquired on the job. There is no substitute for experience. Many engineering colleges require internships or co-ops to graduate. Students from the current generation are digital natives, but frequently lack real-world skills. They can program apps and use computers, which are both relevant to an increasingly computerized world, but the fundamentals of dynamics, solid and fluid mechanics, circuits, etc., will never disappear.
Barriers between majors are eroding and the traditional structure of discipline-specific majors may soon change into a track system where students can select tracks currently categorized into different majors. One example given is how electrical engineering interfaces with mechanical and aerospace. Electrical engineering students with an interest in robotics or mechatronics might want to take mechanical engineering courses, but those are not required, nor do they fit, in the electrical engineering undergraduate program. However, a new paradigm may be possible in which a student may take an electronics track and a mechanical design track for his undergraduate program.
Student design and other activities develop technical and nontechnical skills highly sought by employers. However, members of this generation tend not to be joiners of groups, like student design groups or professional societies, out of a sense of responsibility or for the desire simply to belong to a group. Students instead only get involved to fulfill a perceived need and then leave once that need is met. As a result, participation in professional societies is decreasing. In addition, the need for networking is filled by online groups and other avenues, and the need for design/team involvement is filled through senior year capstone projects. One possible solution to combat the trend in professional society decline is for faculty to emphasize employers’ desire to see leadership skills through professional society involvement and for recent graduates to promote societies also.
Questions from the audience were wide ranging and included the hypersonics race with China paralleling the Cold War space race with Russia, preparedness of graduates for careers, and the decreasing number of undergraduate students who take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam in preparation for Professional Engineer licensure. The event was informative and well received by those in attendance and the panelists enjoyed participating.
AIAA Publishes New Book on Aircraft and Rotorcraft Flight Control Systems
Research engineers from the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) and Universities Space Research Association (USRA) have written a new textbook to advance the understanding of aircraft and rotorcraft flight control systems titled Practical Methods for Aircraft and Rotorcraft Flight Control Design: An Optimization Based Approach, and published by AIAA.
The six authors compiled their extensive experience and lessons learned into a comprehensive and practical resource for academia and professional flight control engineers. The textbook is a product of years of research, software development, algorithm improvements, desktop design, piloted-simulation and flight-test studies, according to AIAA Associate Fellow Dr. Mark B. Tischler, AMRDEC Senior Technologist for flight control technologies, and the lead author. A central theme in the book is flight control design using multi-objective parametric optimization to directly meet a large number of competing design specifications. “The key advantage of this approach is that the designer chooses an appropriate control system architecture based on the system requirements and airframe capabilities,” Tischler said.
Researchers at AMRDEC’s Aviation Development Directorate (ADD) at Moffett Field, CA, were inspired to write the book after conducting several short courses and publishing numerous conference papers. They realized that communicating their key advances in an integrated book was the best way to advance the state of the art of flight control technology for both students and professional engineers.
In collaboration with USRA under the NASA Academic Mission Services contract, ADD developed a modern integrated software tool that addresses these technical flight control challenges. This tool, the Control Designer’s Unified Interface, or CONDUIT®, is a state-of-the-art flight control design and optimization tool that allows the user to rapidly evaluate and optimize designs against relevant performance specifications and design criteria. CONDUIT is used throughout the book to illustrate the design algorithms for both simple and complex case studies. The book contains student excercises for classroom or self-learning use and comes with a student version of the CONDUIT software.
The release of this book coincides with major new flight vehicle programs such as the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstrator, Future Vertical Lift (FVL), and Future Tactical Unmanned Air Systems (FTUAS), all highly dependent on high performance flight control systems, which can be advanced through the methods and guidelines detailed in this textbook. For more information, or to order the book, please visit https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/book/10.2514/4.104435.
A Section within an Aerospace Hub
By Dr. Amir S. Gohardani, Chair, AIAA Orange County Section
Young Professionals (YPs) and Career and Workforce Development represent two of the distinct areas that the AIAA Orange County (OC) Section has most recently concentrated on. As a section within an aerospace hub in Southern California, engaging with YPs is essential as such efforts translate to new career opportunities for students and enable a smoother transition for their entry into the aerospace workforce. Moreover, Career and Workforce Development efforts engage the entire aerospace workforce to actively excel in their respective professions. During 2016–2017, Chase Schulze, section chair, shared similar visions with other council members to focus on the aforementioned areas.
A Distinct Young Professionals Activity
The section noticed the need for a YP event at the AIAA California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) Student Branch. In November 2016, an event was held to foster engagement between industry and the young professional community. A panel of mid-career engineers—including Daniel Tompkins, 2016–2017 YP section officer, and Chase Schulze—was assembled from The Boeing Company and Systems Technology Incorporated to visit CSUF. The panel focused on the transition from university to industry with six aerospace engineers answering questions on topics related to work/life balance, a normal day in the aerospace industry, and strategies for job applications and job hunting, as well as career development. The overall feedback from the event was positive and CSUF believes that it helped to excite students about a career in aerospace.
A Career and Workforce Development Database
In another effort to support career and workforce development, Martin Bayer, 2016–2017 Career and Workforce Development section officer, enabled a Specific Job Tool that is available on the section’s website (https://info.aiaa.org/Regions/Western/Orange_County/Job%20Search%20Tools/Forms/AllItems.aspx). This tool represents a database structured into three tabs. The first tab is a listing of potential employers in the aerospace sector within the state, with the focus on organizations that perform at least some level of systems engineering and integration. Most companies herein are located in Southern California. The second tab lists organizations and resources that may help in a job search, such as employment and staffing agencies, recruiters, and job websites, while the third tab links to other aerospace company listings that include “nuts and bolts” manufacturers. (The listing of companies included in the Job Tool is not an endorsement by the AIAA OC Section.)
The AIAA OC Section looks forward to continuing its efforts to engage YPs and in taking additional steps for Career and Workforce Development.
AIAA SSTC–STTC STEM Teacher Grant Program Helps Teachers Stimulate Students’ Imagination
Since 2010, the AIAA Space Systems Technical Committee (SSTC) and Space Transportation Technical Committee (STTC) have partnered to award grants to K–12 STEM teachers through a nationwide competitive process, providing STEM resources to stimulate student imagination and confidence. For the 2016–2017 school year, five $500 grants were awarded, made possible through donations from NASA Alumni League Johnson Space Center Chapter; Special Aerospace Services, Inc.; Analytical Mechanics Associates, Inc.; Stellar Solutions Foundation; and Space Transportation Technical Committee. This year’s winning teachers all used robotics to give students motivation and foundational skills for careers in science and engineering.
Georgia Paul, Pioneer Elementary School, Colorado Springs, Colorado – Ms. Paul’s 3rd–5th grade students used Sphero and Ozobot robots to learn the fundamentals of engineering design: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve. Students learned about optical sensors, calibration, coding, fixing problems, and real-life applications for robots. They programmed Sphero robots to perform various maneuvers, navigate a maze, and operate on different terrain types, developing geometry, engineering, science and computer programming concepts. They used Ozobots to develop logical reasoning and coding skills through the premise of tiny robots following code on a map. A writing component accompanied each coding task to reinforce understanding and address grade level standards of English/Language Arts communication. The AIAA grant directly inspired additional donations from the school principal and local Barnes and Noble for additional Ozobots and supplementary STEM materials.
Lynnea Shafter, Barbara Morgan STEM Academy, Meridian, Idaho – Ms. Shafter’s 3rd–5th grade students used an EV3 robot set acquired via the grant to experience the power of building and programming robots during STEM class and as practice for after-school FIRST LEGO team activities. In class, students met the challenge of creating a robot to help with a real-world task relevant to future space or Earth exploration. They undertook design of a robot that could remove hazardous materials from a disaster site. They successfully engineered their robot to move toward, pickup, and remove hazardous waste boxes to a dump site, and then modified it to remove more than one box at a time. Students came away with improved communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, as well as a new level of excitement for programming and engineering opportunities.
Karin Pacot, Ellicot Elementary School, Calhan, Colorado – Ms. Pacot’s students in 3rd–12th grade used six Sphero SPRK robots to learn about computer science, something previously missing from the school’s STEM curriculum. Students familiarized themselves with Sphero SPRK, learned about the various programming building blocks available, and then spent time coding to address various task challenges, including maze navigation. Students built both LEGO Duplo brick mazes and taped courses, driving themselves to experiment with different programming and testing techniques before finally all achieving successful results. In true STEM fashion, students solved problems, persevered, and worked together.
Paul McMahon, Kennedy Catholic High School, Hermitage, Pennsylvania – Mr. McMahon’s students acquired a VEX EDR robotics control hardware kit, including motors, servos, and a microcontroller. This enabled students to build and exercise robots consistent with the regulations of the Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology (BEST) competition, in which Kennedy Catholic competes. The hardware gave the students increased hands-on design and practice time, greatly improving their ability to develop and test multiple designs. It also drove them to learn more programming because each design change necessitated a different program.
Kellie Taylor, Galileo STEM Academy, Eagle, Idaho – Ms. Taylor’s students in K–8th grade worked with LEGO WeDo 2.0 robotics hardware and software in the school’s elementary engineering laboratory and weekly “makerspace” forum. Students worked individually and collaboratively in small groups on building and programming robots, with emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The materials provided by the grant allowed each student more hands-on time with robotic kits and programming than in previous years, making it easier to achieve the goal of engaging students in STEM.
The technical committees are now gearing up for the 2017–2018 grant cycle. For more information about supporting this rewarding program please contact John Bloomer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent AIAA St. Louis STEM Outreach
The AIAA St. Louis Section recently organized a Science Night at Hawthorn Elementary in St. Peter’s, MO. Volunteers spent helped over 40 children and their families design and build their own long-span wing inspired by Boeing’s Phantom Eye. The event included a a short presentation and hands-on demonstrations to help the students understand the concepts of load paths and drag. The kids had a great time experimenting with how additional load paths would allow for a longer and stronger wing.
The section members also organized an activity with YES (Youth Exploring Science), a program that works with 250 underprivileged teenagers throughout the course of their high school career, providing them with an inquiry-based learning environment that focuses on science, mathematics, and technology. Volunteers spent the morning speaking about their career paths, giving a lesson on satellites and solar array deployment, and leading a design challenge in which the teens had to build their own 6-x-6-inch satellite model that included self-deployable solar arrays (out of typical household materials) that would fit inside a 9-inch diameter rocket fairing.
AIAA STEM Resources
The K–12 STEM Outreach Committee would like to recognize outstanding STEM events in each section. Each month we will highlight an outstanding K–12 STEM activity; if your section would like to be featured, please contact Supriya Banerjee (1Supriya.Banerjee@gmail.com) and Angela Diggs (Angela.Spence@gmail.com).
Are you a STEM enthusiast? Are you looking for new STEM lessons to excite your students? Are you ready to trade in your “tried and true” STEM lesson for some new ideas? If you answered yes to any of these questions, we have a resource for you!
The STEM K–12 Committee, with creative direction from AIAA Associate Fellow Dr. John Fay, has been working hard to develop easily digestible STEM lessons focused on aerospace principles. The Micro-Lessons are broken into grade levels, with specific instructions appropriate for grades K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. The lessons range from engineering, to mathematics, to physics, to highlighting aerospace anniversaries. They are specifically written to spark conversation and interest in aerospace. A few of the lessons are highlighted:
Living in Space – This lesson challenges students to consider how humans survive in space. Video links and focused questions are provided to engage each grade level in critically thinking through how we can survive in space.
Asteroids and Dinosaurs – This lesson engages students in considering a few aspects of asteroid impacts and near misses. What if the asteroid that hit near the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago and killed the dinosaurs had been a near miss instead?
How Do Airplanes Fly – Help students explore airflow and Bernoulli’s principle to understand how airplane stay in the air!
How Long is a Year? – 365 ¼ days, right? This lessons allows students to explore the concept of time, understanding that calculating a more accurate answer may be very simple, or very complicated!
Metric Units of Measurement – This lesson explores how we have defined standard units through the ages and proposed changes.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – Best known in some circles for his book, The Little Prince, he also wrote about aviation. This lesson allows students to explore some of de Saint-Exupéry’s accomplishments.
Want to know more? Please check out the Aerospace Micro-Lessons on the AIAA website at http://www.aiaa.org/MicroLessons.
AIAA Fellow Blottner Died in May
Dr. Frederick G. Blottner, age 84, passed away on 15 May.
Dr. Blottner attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute for his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautical Engineering and obtained his Doctorate in Engineering Mechanics from Stanford University. He spent 42 years as a research scientist at Sandia National Laboratories.
Dr. Blottner was an active member of AIAA. He was part of the Computational Fluid Dynamics Technical Committee in 1997 and was a member of the Publications Committee from 1986 to 2003. He was awarded the 2002 Thermophysics Award, and in 2005, he was recognized with an AIAA Sustained Service Award for his “five decades of outstanding and sustained service to AIAA’s Regional, technical and publication activities.”
AIAA Fellow Wu Died in May
Long-time AIAA Greater Huntsville Section member Dr. Shi Tsan Wu died on 21 May.
A native of China, Dr. Wu did his undergraduate work at the National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, in 1955 after which he traveled to Chicago to complete his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He completed his Ph.D. in 1967 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He also spent two years at the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics of Harvard University and the Plasma Laboratory of Princeton University.
He started his career as an Assistant Research Professor in Mechanical Engineering at University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in 1967. He became a Professor in Mechanical Engineering at UAH in 1972. Dr. Wu founded the Center for Space Plasma & Aeronomic Research at UAH in 1986, and served as its Director until his retirement in 2005. He continued his research after retirement as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at UAH.
A member of AIAA since 1967 and a long-time member of the Plasmadynamics and Lasers Technical Committee, Dr. Wu received many honors and awards including the Greater Huntsville Section’s Hermann Oberth and Martin Schilling awards.
He also received the 1996 AIAA Plasmadynamics & Lasers Award and the 2006 AIAA James A. Van Allen Space Environments Award.
The Professor Shi Tsan Wu Memorial Scholarship has been set up at the University of Alabama in Huntsville; online donations can be made at www.uah.edu/giving.
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