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Aerospace Engineering

Overview: 

The Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department offers two undergraduate degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. These two degree programs are distinct ABET-accredited programs.

Note that the philosophy and specific steps for student outcomes assessment are virtually identical for the Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering programs. Therefore, only the mechanical engineering program will be described in detail. Furthermore, outcomes assessment procedures are governed by the ABET criteria

 

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

The educational goal of the Mechanical Engineering program is to produce graduates who are prepared to competently perform mechanical engineering practices, including defining problems and alternative solutions, analyzing potential solutions, and communicating solutions to technical and non‑technical audiences. It is the goal of the program to produce mechanical engineering graduates who are widely recognized by industry, government, and graduate schools as of such high quality and competence that we can develop a continuing, mutually supportive relationship with them.

 

 

Assessment Activities: 

The Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering has established several specific and regularly scheduled assessment cycles for measuring outcomes, reviewing its educational objectives and outcomes, and identifying the needs of its constituencies. The assessment has “internal” and “external” components. 

The Undergraduate Studies Committee is charged as the focal faculty committee to oversee the assessment process within the department. A member of the committee is designated as the coordinator of assessment activities. The committee is asked to conduct its business to explicitly optimize the impact of its activities on the Educational Objectives and Learning Outcomes of the department at all times. All data obtained from the range of assessment vehicles are directed to the Undergraduate Studies Committee. The committee is asked to review the data, interpret them and bring recommendations to the faculty for consideration at a faculty meeting at least once each year.

The Undergraduate Studies Committee consists of four faculty members, two each from the Aerospace and the Mechanical Engineering programs, and two undergraduate students. At the discretion of the Department Head, an Associate Department Head and the Undergraduate Advisor may also be appointed as members of the Undergraduate Studies Committee provided that the person(s) is(are) not presently serving on the Department Undergraduate Studies Committee. One committee for both majors was formed in order to address many of the common issues in the AME department.

Methods Used to Assess Intended Student Outcomes

The principal instruments (both quantitative and qualitative) used in this regard are:

 

  • Job Placement Data (Academic Services, College of Engineering): Data are collected from pre-commencement programs, departments, and faculty, from employers who advertise through Academic Services, and from the CareersEng listserv survey conducted by Academic Services. Periodic examination and interpretation of data.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Undergraduate Advisory Committee: continuous.

     

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  •  Senior Exit Survey: conducted once each year.

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  • Alumni Survey: conducted by the College of Engineering: every year. 

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  • Evaluation of Senior Design Projects by Judges from Industry: every semester.

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  • Student Course/Instructor Evaluations: conducted every semester in every course according to University policy.

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  • Fundamentals of Engineering Examination: periodic tabulation of the results.

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  • Review and Assessment by Industrial Advisory Council (and new AME Advisory Board): annually as needed, especially in response to their needs.

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  • Performance Assessment from Industry: every three years; to learn about the performance of our graduates.

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  • Faculty (Undergraduate Studies Committee) Assessment of Curriculum: conducted periodically as needed, but parts of the curriculum are reviewed every year.

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  • Academic Program Review: once every seven years, mandated by the University. The report is transmitted to the Arizona Board of Regents

Senior Exit Survey: Through Spring 2004, this survey was administered every semester in the capstone design class for ME students. Starting Fall 2004, it has been administered every semester in the Senior Colloquium (AME 495s).It is our belief that this survey is a very valuable assessment tool. Student experiences with faculty, other personnel, and the infrastructure are especially important for the closure of the assessment feedback loop.The survey has three parts: the first part rates the overall quality of the facilities and that of the faculty, teaching assistants and staff. Two additional activities are also rated, namely, advising and the engineering design experience. The second part of the survey directly focuses on ABET Criteria 3(a)-(k). Students rate the program on a scale of 7 (extremely well) to 1(not at all, including NA = not applicable) for each of the criteria. 

On the third and final part, the students are asked to select three of the ABET criteria that they perceive will be the most important in their careers. 

 

Alumni Survey: Conducted by the College of Engineering every year (individual students are contacted every other year). The surveys are directed at alumni with three and five years of experience following graduation. The survey not only provides a perspective on the students’ educational experiences, but the first page of the survey also yields important information on their professional accomplishments and career development activities. The alumni survey asks how well the department has prepared them for industrial settings: multidisciplinary teamwork, communication skills, lifelong learning, ethical responsibilities, and problem and design formulation. These feedbacks are compiled and tabulated. The Department Head and the members of the Undergraduate Studies Committee review and discuss the results.

The College also makes use of the assessment from this survey in the College ABET Committee and the College Undergraduate Studies Committee to identify patterns among departments and variations among alumni perceptions and input.

Evaluation of Senior Design Projects by Judges from Industry: In their final year, undergraduate students are required to take a series of two capstone design courses: AME 412/413a and AME 412/413b. Many of the student teams interact directly with local companies, and design and deliver a product at the end of the year. Representatives from industry act as judges as part of the final evaluation process. Since Spring 1999, their input has been garnered through an evaluation form addressing difficulty of design, creativity, quality of design and hardware, level of analysis, and effectiveness of presentation.

Student Course/Instructor Evaluations: This is done via standard questionnaires available from the office of Assessment and Enrollment Research of the University. The mandatory survey is filled out by students near the end of each semester for each course, and the information is processed by the University. Options are available for modifying the survey to meet the specific educational objectives of a course. Most conventionally, however, the so-called short form is used.

 

The information provided by the course evaluations is used in two different ways. First, the pure numerical scores of the evaluation provide important comparative information regarding course content, method of delivery, adequacy of the course materials, etc., which are to be carefully examined by the professor in the semester following the course offering. These data are also useful for the purpose of evaluating each faculty member teaching a given course. Second, the written comments provided by students in the course evaluations provide important feedback on method and style of delivery, adequacy of materials, etc., which cannot be sufficiently determined solely from the tabulated numerical scores. Admittedly, these written comments are anecdotal in nature. For this reason, such information is useful for the faculty member in a formative sense. 

The instructors and Department Head receive computerized interpretations of the results on various metrics of teaching effectiveness. 

 

Fundamentals of Engineering Examination (FE): Some of our graduates take this examination in anticipation of PE certification in later years. The FE examination is not a graduation requirement, but it is a nationally-normed examination that provides useful information, both on the quality of the program as well as on the students who take them. The database is small but favorable; there is no specific examination for the mechanical discipline so quantitative feedback is limited to the common engineering disciplines. 

Review and Assessment by Industrial Advisory Council (and new AME Advisory Board): The Industrial Advisory Council provided a vehicle for industry input to the periodic evaluation of program educational objectives and the efforts to continuously improve the program. The Industrial Advisory Council (IAC) consisted of members from national and local companies. The IAC met twice a year on a regular basis to discuss the educational objectives of the department, the curriculum, and strategies to improve the department. When an important issue arose, a subcommittee was formed to examine and recommend a solution to the IAC. Such recommendations were forwarded to the Department Head and the Undergraduate Studies Committee. The new AME Advisory Board performs the same functions and conducts itself in a similar, but broader, manner as the previous IAC. It provides program review from the industry perspective, as well as program review in a broader context. 

 

Performance Assessment from Industry: Another measure of the success of the Mechanical Engineering Program is the on-the-job performance of the graduates working in industry. Representative employers of our graduates are requested to fill out a performance survey every three years. The survey specifically requests information on our graduates in the areas of technical ability, communication and professional growth, and eagerness to engage in life-long learning. Both the Department Head and the Undergraduate Studies Committee review the feedback. 

 

Faculty (Undergraduate Studies Committee) Assessment of Curriculum: It is believed that the faculty have the clearest insights into the program. Curriculum (i.e., program) issues are discussed by the Undergraduate Studies Committee and recommendations are brought to the faculty for discussion at faculty meetings, e.g., introduction of MatLab in AME 302 and addition of Finite Element Analysis with ANSYS to the curriculum.

With respect to assessment at the course-level, it is the faculty, via their day-to-day contact with students, who have the best understanding of how well the learning outcomes are met. The assess­ment is done in conventionally accepted ways using prerequisite quizzes, examinations, projects and homework. Information on the first is provided to the Undergraduate Studies Committee and the Department Head. The use of the prerequisite quiz is not universal, while the other instruments are standard. The University also provides grade statistics for each course at semester’s end for review by the Department Head. He/she can request input/action from the Undergraduate Studies Committee if he/she feels that the program outcomes are not met.

 

A future objective is to construct a short survey that instructors can use in each course to provide an overall assessment on how well the students met the applicable program outcomes. As we all know, grades alone can be misleading because of the different levels of course difficulty and instructor standards.

 

Academic Program Review: The review consists of a self-study report and the report/recommenda­tions of the review committee. The last review was carried out during the Spring of 2001. The committee consisted of three distinguished academicians (NAE members), members from industry, alumni, and a College representative (7 total). The final report of the committee is available upon request; the self-study report is available from the Department. This is a comprehensive review of the department, including the graduate program and research activities.

Job Placement Data: Data are collected from pre-commencement programs, departments, and faculty, from employers who advertise through Academic Services, and from the CareersEng listserv survey conducted by Academic Services. 

Summary of Assessment Results

A number of assessment tools and results are presented in Appendix G. Here, we will summarize and interpret the results in light of the defined learning outcomes and objectives.

The Senior Exit Survey is telling us that the students in general are satisfied with the educational experiences and agree that the program is teaching them the necessary skills. The two areas that warrant the most attention for improvement are Physical Labs and TAs. An Undergraduate Laboratory Committee has been formed to investigate this deficiency and implement improvement strategies. However, the financial constraints are limiting the progress.

The Department has a policy in the selection of teaching assistants (TAs), their assignment to specific courses based on their skills, and the review of their evaluations. All international students who want to be TAs must pass a University of Arizona language competency test, and faculty supervisors evaluate their respective TAs each semester. These evaluations are reviewed by the Associate Department Head for Graduate Studies and Research and the Department Head. TAs are re-appointed or not on the basis of the quality of their evaluations. The current assessment process will be improved by implementing a student survey of the TAs in each course to which a TA has been assigned. The TA surveys will be designed to identify what the problems are and solicit suggestions regarding how to address the problems.

The results from the Alumni Survey are in agreement with those of the Senior Exit Survey. The AME program is doing well in educating its students in all the hard sciences areas, e.g., mathematical skills, design, etc. However, the alumni survey is indicating that improvement should be made to "understand contemporary issues, and to "understand the impact of engineering solutions in the global context." The Department will be investigating different ways to address this shortcoming. For instance, one possible way is to introduce speakers from industry to highlight some of these issues using case studies.

 

Evaluation of Senior Design Projects by Judges from Industry is between Fair and Good. This is an assessment tool that we don't fully understand. The Undergraduate Studies Committee is investigating the reasons. As the committee identifies the reasons, they will propose corrective measures to improve the capstone design projects.

 

Student Course/Instructor Evaluation results are in agreement with the Exit Survey and Alumni Survey. AME students are satisfied with the course work.  They feel that they are learning from our curriculum.

 

AME students' performance in Fundamentals of Engineering Examination is excellent, surpassing the national average passing rate.

The previous APR Report provides a comprehensive review of the department.  Faculty, staff, new building, and the undergraduate programs are identified as the strengths of the department.  The Alumni Survey shows us that more, compared to 1998-2004 Alumni Survey results, of our undergraduate students feel that AME encourages and/or permits them to participate in research, independent studies, internships, and extra activities. Currently (2007-08 academic year), the undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 26.9, which is high compared to our national peer institutions. The graduate student-to-faculty ratio is 4.4, which is comparable to our national peer institutions. 

The AME graduates receive very positive evaluations from their employers. However, given the small sample size, these results serve as a supplement to other assessment results.

The fact that many big companies recruit, hire, and retain our graduates is a strong indication of the success of the AME program in training our students.

 

 

Updated date: Mon, 03/15/2010 - 12:27