Design Instructor Recognized for Innovative Approach to Engineering Education

June 08, 2016

Armand Chaput, senior lecturer in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, has been recognized by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for his new approach to educating students about systems engineering — a field that he says should be integrated into hands-on projects across all engineering disciplines.

Systems engineering is a multidisciplinary field focused on how to design and manage complex engineering systems. Chaput has been teaching the department’s capstone aircraft system engineering design course since 2008. His approach, which he implemented in the Cockrell School during the 2011-12 academic year, integrates systems engineering fundamentals with hands-on projects for undergraduate aircraft design students. The course includes designing, building and flying an unmanned aircraft on a simulated Austin Fire Department Search and Rescue mission.

Chaput’s paper, titled “Systems Engineering Education for All Engineers: A Capstone Design Approach,” was named Best Paper for 2016 by the ASEE Systems Engineering Division.

Systems engineering is typically taught as a separate subject, but Chaput has incorporated it into the coursework as principles of design — starting with release of an initial Request for Information (RFI) and continuing through a simulated System Design and Development (SDD) “contract.”

This new educational approach provides students with the opportunity to experience relevant systems engineering design, in which they face real-world problems, such as technical difficulties, interpersonal conflicts, scheduling, over/underestimates of workload, finding and correct mistakes and more.

Since implementing his approach at UT Austin, Chaput has worked with colleagues at Texas A&M to test the approach; Texas A&M has subsequently increased systems engineering content in their design course with minimum displacement of other course content. He hopes to see this course concept implemented at other universities across the nation.