Aug 16, 2011

Arizona State University Develops Aerospace Engineering Curriculum Based on MATLAB and Simulink

Helps Motivate Students to Learn and Better Prepares Them for Industry.

MathWorks today announced that Arizona State University (ASU) redesigned the curriculum of its aerospace engineering program to emphasize independent discovery and the use of MATLAB and Simulink for exploring aerodynamics, aircraft stability, and control concepts. As a result, ASU faculty found that student confidence in these fields has increased, final exam scores have improved by 18%, and fewer demands have been placed on lab resources.

Traditional teaching practices often emphasize classical methods, mostly based on the derivation and analysis of symbolic linear models. ASU revamped two core aerospace engineering courses to emphasize the discovery of critical concepts through solving real-world problems. The university also provided campus-wide access to MATLAB and Simulink for students and faculty, which enabled broader, more convenient access to the tools and eliminated time constraints associated with having to work in a computer lab.

“MATLAB is ideal because it not only provides a simple framework to integrate various third-party software applications such as CFD and flight simulators, but also allows users to execute them in a familiar environment,” said Dr. Praveen Shankar, lecturer of Aerospace Engineering at ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy. “In the aerospace industry, engineers use computational methods and simulation for design and analysis. One of our goals was to incorporate more computational work to prepare our students. Secondly, rather than focus on deriving theories on paper, we wanted to implement pedagogical methods that would enable the understanding of theory through simulation and visualization”

Following the implementation of the new curriculum, ASU compared student performance in the old and new courses. Students in Aircraft Dynamics and Control, a new course that incorporated MATLAB and Simulink more deeply, had a mean score of 79, outperforming the mean of 67 in the old course. Additionally, ASU found that the new courses improved the confidence of the students to achieve their course objectives.

“ASU’s real-world approach to its curriculum ensures that its graduates will be well prepared and highly employable,” said Tom Gaudette, principal academic evangelist at MathWorks. “It’s rewarding to hear that our technology supported the university’s vision and helped them achieve their goal of providing young engineers with the skills they will need in their jobs.”