Integrating aerospace research materials into a project-based first-year engineering design course
Faculty members at Texas A&M University have made significant strides in using project-based learning in first-year engineering courses to promote understanding of mathematics and science and the practice of engineering. Project specifications developed and utilized for the last seven years ensure students use mathematics and science concepts in the engineering process of design and modeling to make performance predictions prior to the build and then use the build to obtain verified results. Seeking to excite freshman students about aerospace materials science applications in the firstyear, faculty members and graduate students in the Aerospace Engineering department at Texas A&M University developed projects involving shape memory alloys (SMAs), which utilize the shape memory effect for shape and actuation control applications. By introducing projects using SMAs, students learn about their applications, their relationship to the aerospace field, and the potential for material science as a future research goal. This paper will expand on the work published in the proceedings of the 2011 ASEE Conference and Exposition1. Through the use of SMAs and standard Lego Mindstorm kits, the project involves students building and programming a Mars-rover type Lego robot to accomplish a mission. In keeping with the aerospace theme, a lightweight material is optimally preferred and central to actuating uninhabited autonomous vehicle, (i.e., the robot's claw in lieu of a motor-driven claw). This paper will present specifications for the project developed using SMAs, provide details on the implementation and integration of aerospace materials with engineering design and visual programming, and summarize the results of the project. 2012 American Society for Engineering Education.