Armand Chaput and Hans Mark
Dr. Armand Chaput (left) with Professor Hans Mark at the Spring 2016 senior aircraft design fly-off event.

Dr. Armand Chaput, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin, was selected by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) to receive a best paper award. The paper, titled Systems Engineering Education for All Engineers: A Capstone Design Approach, received the Best Paper award from the ASEE Systems Engineering Division for 2016.

ASEE, founded in 1893, is a nonprofit organization with the mission of furthering education in engineering and technology education. Members of the organization include faculty members, deans, department heads, students, and government and industry representatives from all disciplines of engineering and engineering technology.

Chaput’s paper introduces a hands-on educational approach for teaching undergraduate aircraft design students about systems engineering that is applicable to other engineering disciplines as well. Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach in which all parts of a system must work together harmoniously to achieve an objective.

Instead of teaching systems engineering as a separate subject, which has been the traditional engineering education approach, Chaput integrates systems engineering fundamentals into course work as hands-on principles of design.

During the 2011-12 academic year, Chaput implemented this new approach in the UT Austin Aircraft Design I and Aircraft Design II courses. Since then, aerospace engineering seniors in the atmospheric track have participated in this hands-on, systems engineering approach. Chaput uses the structure of the course itself to teach systems engineering, 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 real-world systems engineering design, where they face a host of real-world problems, including technical difficulties, interpersonal conflicts, scheduling, over/underestimates of workload, finding and correcting mistakes and more. The course includes designing, building and flying an unmanned aircraft on a simulated Austin Fire Department Search and Rescue mission.

Chaput has worked with colleagues at Texas A&M to test the new approach, where they substantially increased systems engineering content in their well-established design course with minimum displacement of other course content. He hopes to see this course concept implemented in other interested universities and engineering disciplines across the nation.