Using Model Rocketry To Introduce Students To Aerospace Engineering

Eugene Niemi
2002 Annual Conference Proceedings   unpublished
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
more » ... 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.
doi:10.18260/1-2--11142 fatcat:nzrwkcwucndjbcll3sd44fr2ve