The capstone course in aircraft detail design at the Aerospace Engineering department of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will be presented. It is structured as a balanced mixture of lectures and a real-world project given by industry with some other activities carefully conceived to address specific deficiencies encountered in traditional engineering education; specifically, the dissociation in the students minds, or even practicing engineers, between abstract or numerical analysis and real-world design. In earlier semesters students tend to be exposed only to “clean” problems, where only one type of loading or deformation is considered or where certain aspects of the problem, such as attachments, are left out. Furthermore, in many cases these disciplines are taught in isolation, detached from their natural context. This results in students lacking a sense of feel and touch for structural analysis, something also observed for other engineering disciplines; capable of manipulating mathematical formulae but without understanding what the numbers they calculate really mean and therefore deprived of confidence about whether their design is sound or not. A special innovative learning experience at the beginning of the term has been implemented to deal with these problems, which consists, in essence, in a condensed version of the semester-long project.

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