C-5 Aircraft Development (see under Core Subjects Login)


SR-71 Aircraft Development (see under Core Subjects Login)


Space Shuttle Development (see under Core Subjects Login)


Boeing 737 (see under Core Subjects Login)


Boeing 7777 (see under Core Subjects Login)




Learning to Innovate Across Disciplines: A Case Study of 3 Experiences


Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Development: Case Study


Renovation of a Wind tunnel: Case Study


Advanced Learning in an Engineering Course: A Case Study


The Case for Depth of Comprehension






























Learning To Innovate Across Disciplines: Case Studies


The Case Studies span several disciplines and types. Some are in-depth technical case studies used in advanced engineering classes: Professor Brian German developed and uses them in both undergraduate and graduate classes. Students get to work through the analyses and decision processes that faced the original designers of some famous aerospace systems.

The C-5 cargo aircraft was seen as the key to avoiding all-out global nuclear war: it had to allow large, heavy cargoes such as fully-assembled attack helicopters to be transported rapidly across the Atlantic between the USA and Europe, and operate from short runways in a wartime environment. The competition was fierce: the losing concept was what later became Boeing's spectacularly successful B-747 Jumbo Jet that revolutionized worldwide travel.

The SR-71 Mach 4 reconnaisance aircraft was developed to enable swift aerial reconnaissance over very long distances, operating high enough and fast enough to allow survival over hostile territory. It enabled world leaders to determine facts about many issues, reducing the uncertainties which threatened to trigger much worse conflicts. It was, and still is, a truly revolutionary aircraft, breaking through many "superstitions"using bold innovation backed by science and engineering. For instance, its fuel tanks leak while on the ground: they are made to accommodate the expansion that comes with aerodynamic heating at high altitude. It uses vortex lift from the long forebody strakes. Its engines transition from being turbojets to being ramjets at high speeds, and back again. It's fuel is exotic, its crew escape system led to many safety advancements.

The Space Shuttle Transportation system was one of a kind: a bold venture into developing a low-cost reusable space transportation system. Until then, re-entry vehicles used ablative heat shields which were destroyed during the extreme phase of re-entry, and the return capsule had to be recovered by parachute landing. Ultimately the cost never came down enough, because operations never grew to the frequency required to make it cost-effective given the "standing army" of personnel needed to operate it safely. Again, this ventured into many unknown regimes, and nearly paid the price of uncertainty: the first flight encountered non-equilibrium effects during hypersonic re-entry, with pitching moments that very nearly exceeded the capabilities of its control surfaces! Even today, most of the flight data on hypersonic boundary layers and heat transfer come from Shuttle flights.



In these examples the student studies how these historic achievements were developed, walking in the footsteps of those innovators. Given the depth of these resources, they are inside the login-controlled part of EXTROVERT.

In a different type of case study, Pablo Afman describes how his team of aerospace engineering students learned to innovate. One example is through an open-ended assignment (see their work under the Advanced Concepts link) in a core AE class. Next, they learned the field of aerospace design in the capstone design course in their senior year. Finally, they put their design knowledge and innovative spirit to use in the intense environment of the International Rotorcraft Design competition.


Akshay Pendharkar documents his own team's experience in developing a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine testbed, with Professor Komerath's added description of the project's six-year history. Thus these two are case studies by students introspecting on how they learned to innovate.


Another study documents the intense efforts by a student team, faced with the task of getting an ancient wind tunnel facility ready for a new motor, and a major technical upgrade. Several new skills had to be learned and implemented, all inside one summer.


Professor Komerath describes a Case Study of what happens when depth and innovation are injected into an advanced engineering course.


Lastly, Professor Komerath makes a case for increased attention to depth, even where the intent is to enable cross-disciplinary innovation. He argues that effective innovation across disciplines requires willingness to learn broadly, but it requires strong attention to comprehension in depth, at least in one's own home discipline. In the fast-evolving environment of engineering knowledge, depth is the competitive advantage.