Learning through doing

Garrett Herrmann, a sophomore in aerospace engineering, works with the Advanced Aero Vehicle Group in the Student Design Center. Photo by Sam O'Keefe.

Garrett Herrmann, a sophomore in aerospace engineering, works with the Advanced Aero Vehicle Group in the Student Design Center. Photo by Sam O’Keefe.

Learning to ride a bicycle involves hands-on practice. It cannot be taught in any other way. One has to remove the training wheels, take a few falls and simply learn by doing. It’s all about experiential learning.

Missouri S&T’s student design teams approach learning in a similar way. Team members develop skills outside of the classroom on hands-on projects to design and build vehicles and structures from the ground up.

The Student Design and Experiential Learning Center, housed in the Kummer Student Design Center, is where all the magic happens. That is where 14 interdisciplinary teams turn classroom study into practical experience. Whether it’s machining a metal chassis for a racecar, racing a canoe built of concrete or building a 1:10 scale model steel bridge, S&T students get real-world experience through teamwork.

Recently, the Advanced Aero Vehicle Group earned fourth place at the Aero Design West Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. Though the team learned a lot from its success, it may have learned even more from a mechanical failure that caused a crash just days before the competition.

A crash during testing left the team’s plane in pieces. The students salvaged parts and got a backup plane flying in time for the competition. Sometimes, people learn more from their mistakes than from their successes.

  • The AAVG plane in flight. Photo by Bob Phelan.

    The AAVG plane in flight. Photo by Bob Phelan.

  • The AAVG plane on the runway. Photo by Bob Phelan.

    The AAVG plane on the runway. Photo by Bob Phelan.

Upcoming student design competitions include:

  • Concrete Canoe Design Team: ASCE Conference, April 24-26, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla.
  • Steel Bridge Design Team: ASCE Conference, April 24-26, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla.
  • Human Powered Vehicle Team: Human Powered Vehicle Challenge West Coast Competition, April 25-27, San Jose, Calif.
  • Formula SAE Team: Formula SAE Competition, May 14-17, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich.
  • Advanced Aero Vehicle Group: NASA Student Launch Rocketry Challenge, May 15-17, Bonneville Salt Flats, Tooele County, Utah
  • Baja SAE Design Team: Baja SAE, May 22-25, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kan.
  • Mars Rover Design Team: University Rover Challenge, May 29-31, Mars Desert Research Station, Hanksville, Utah
  • Robotics Design Team: Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, June 6-9, Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.
  • Formula SAE Electric Design Team: Formula SAE- Lincoln, June 18-21, Lincoln Airpark, Lincoln, Neb.
  • Solar Car Design Team: Formula Sun Grand Prix, July 14-20, Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas
  • International Genetically-Engineered Machines (iGEM) Team: Giant Jamboree, Oct. 30-Nov. 3, Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Mass.

By Peter Ehrhard

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