North America Aerospace Project
CDIO in Aerospace Engineering Education
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
United States Naval Academy
University of Colorado
General Electric Aviation
North America Aerospace Project
CDIO in Aerospace Engineering Education
A project relevant to industry needs
Aerospace generally, and aeronautics particularly, is a key sector of the US economy, contributing
significantly to GDP, positive balance of trade, and national security. Yet the sector is facing a systematic
challenge – maintaining a world-class workforce. Over the next decade, the demographics of the sector
suggest that there will be a significant shortfall in technically competent engineers and other technical
specialists necessary to keep this sector healthy, and preserve the nation’s aeronautics core competencies.
From a national policy perspective, this need has been recognized in the US Aeronautics Policy, the NASA
Strategy Plan, and the ARMD strategy.
In the past eight years, leading engineering schools have formed a collaboration to develop a new vision of
engineering education called the CDIO Approach. CDIO provides an education stressing engineering
fundamentals, set in the context of the Conceiving, Designing, Implementing, Operating process. The goals of
the CDIO approach are to educate students who are able to:
Master a deeper working knowledge of the technical fundamentals
Lead in the creation and operation of new products, processes, and systems
The program objective of the proposed program is to reform and revitalize a number of the key US programs
that prepare aeronautics engineers, and to prepare and disseminate curricular materials and methods so as
to have systematic impact on the nation.
In the proposed effort, we seek to build upon the CDIO approach to engineering education, and continue
developing innovative educational approaches, developing tools, methods and concepts specialized to the
education of the future aerospace engineers. Our ultimate target audience is the students in undergraduate
programs in aerospace around the country. The more immediate audience is the instructors in the programs
who teach these students, and who plan and deliver the curriculum to them. The specific objectives of the
program are to:
Increase the deep understanding of the technical fundamentals necessary to advance the nations
core aeronautical competencies
Develop systematic understanding of the personal, interpersonal and product development skills
necessary to translate technical knowledge into competitive products
Equip the faculty with the tools and methods to impart this knowledge
Disseminate this approach to most or all of the premier aerospace programs in the nation.
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A technical approach based on experience and innovation
The concept for our approach is as follows:
Form an alliance of leading aeronautics programs, in partnership with the US aerospace industry, and
leading educational researchers
Develop project-based learning approaches to aeronautics, along with aligned student learning
assessment methods, within the CDIO framework
Develop dissemination and faculty development support materials, and disseminate them widely
though and open courseware and workshops with open attendance.
We have formed an integrated project team, built around a core group of the three key North American CDIO
programs on aerospace: MIT, the USNA, and the University of Colorado, Boulder. This core group will be
joined by other CDIO university programs in the US, including Arizona State University, Daniel Webster
College and California State University at Northridge. In addition, we welcome new universities focusing on
project based engineering into the collaborative!
In the process of reform, it is vital to keep in close contact with our ultimate customers, the aerospace
industry. We have agreements from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Electric Aviation, and
Orbital Sciences to join us, and form and industry-university steering group for the program. These industries
have agreed to contribute direction, participation in project learning, and supplemental funding. We welcome
other industries focusing on project based engineering into the collaborative!
Finally, we have on our team three distinguished pedagogical experts, and through them contact with the
wider engineering educational community. In fact, the CDIO North American region, based at MIT, is already
a member of the NAE Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education.
Developing aeronautical project-based learning
Our approach is to build upon the 12 CDIO Standards, a model of effective practice developed by the CDIO
collaborative, and specialize this model to aerospace engineering. Specifically we will:
1. Work with our collaborating university departments, aided by industry, to establish and accept the
principle that conceiving – designing – implementing and operating aerospace products, systems
and services should be the context of the undergraduate education.[CDIO Standard 1]
2. Work with our integrated project team to refine the definition of the critical aeronautical knowledge
and product skills most needed for America’s aerospace workforce, and models of education that
will best deliver them [CDIO Standard 2]
3. Develop curriculum and design-implement projects that help aerospace engineering programs
integrate laboratory and project-based experiences throughout the undergraduate program. The
focus will be on first-year experiences and multidisciplinary capstone design-implement
experiences. [CDIO Standards 4, 5, and 6]
4. Develop a rigorous approach to assessing student learning and skills development, based on
measures objective measures, and surveys of student self-confidence in learning (self-efficacy).
[CDIO Standard 11]
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The first and second year experiences will include the following specific innovations:
a. The closer coupling of the engineering science fundamentals into the development of a project.
b. The integration into the design-build experiences of modules on teamwork skills
c. The integration into the design-build experiences of modules on basic project management skills
Likewise the third and fourth year experiences introduce students to the detailed conceive-design-implement-
a. Much closer interaction with real customers in industry and elsewhere who will define the needs and
specification of the system, and the success of the system, and corresponding emphasis on student
learning in how to understand external customers and sponsors.
More “vertical integration” of the project between seniors, juniors and perhaps even sophomores.
c. More emphasis on operations and operational environments and risk assessment.
d. More emphasis on financial responsibilities of student teams.
Dissemination and faculty development
The deliverables projects will be documentation that will be sufficient for adoption and adaptation by other
programs around the country. This will include:
What is the learning outcome, and relation to CDIO syllabus?
What are the learning activities?
How is the project described to the students?
What are the deliverables or outcomes of the student project?
What materials are necessary, how much of it is supplied vs. left to the students to find or innovate?
What team structure is recommended (size, leadership and organizational model)?
How is assessment done?
How does a module typically integrate into a curriculum, and what core aeronautical knowledge does
it introduce or utilize?
Prof. Ed Crawley, MIT, crawley@MIT.edu
Dr. Dave Wisler, MIT/GE, Member NAE, firstname.lastname@example.org
CAPT Robert Niewoehner, Ph.D., USNA, email@example.com
Prof. Jean N. Koster, CU, firstname.lastname@example.org
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