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Aerospace design course goes global


March 10, 2009

Engineering students at Arizona State University are getting opportunities to prepare themselves for the changing world of the global economy.

A prime example is the Global Aerospace Systems Design course taught by professor Jack Rutherford, a former instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who worked for more than 20 years at Boeing, one of the world’s leading aerospace companies.

In Rutherford’s class, mechanical and aerospace engineering students work in a “virtual environment,” using the Internet, e-mail, and video and audio conferencing technologies to collaborate on aircraft design projects with fellow engineering students in Mexico and Singapore.

Over the course of a semester, the teams at ASU, Tec De Monterrey in Mexico and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore must produce an extensively detailed  design for a new model of aircraft.

It provides not only rigorous technology design and engineering challenges, but lessons in cross-cultural communications, global economics and international teamwork, Rutherford says.

Plans are to extend the course to partner universities in China, India and elsewhere.

“The course is a leading example of how we are preparing students to succeed in the global marketplace,” says Jeffrey Goss, associate dean of Global Opportunities and Extended Education for the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at ASU.

Goss says the course is part of bigger plan for the engineering school to develop a Global Engineering Design Commons, which will give ASU students a dedicated space to carry out collaborative projects through a network of corporate and academic partners around the world.

In this podcast, Rutherford and some of the students talk about the course and the valuable lessons it provides for future engineers.

The report was produced by ASU students Brenden Beiriger and Jenna Burns as a project for the Communication through Podcasting course taught by Pauline Davies in ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Beiriger, who is studying to earn a B.A. in communications, says he was impressed with the advanced technology that engineering students got to use in the aerospace design class.

He views this type of course as “the foundation of the future. Globe-spanning projects like this may someday be essential to our survival as a species, on this planet or off of it.”