Aeromodelling: Making better design engineers

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AeromodellingOne of the reasons why many established companies feel graduate engineers are “unemployable", is because the education system in the country lays greater emphasis on knowledge rather than understanding. Even more disheartening is the generalized view held by many Head of Departments of Aerospace Engineering: that students who choose Aerospace Engineering are mostly those who could not secure an admission into any other branch of engineering with better placement prospects, in the college.

The enemies of the Indian aerospace engineers of tomorrow are: passion (the lack of it, except in those who consciously choose the field), and understanding (the lack of it, thanks to the education system). Knowledge has never been an issue, with libraries filled with too many texts and titles.

To really understand aerodynamics, students must design an airplane, build the airplane, fly the airplane, test the airplane, and characterize the airplane.

Designing and building an airplane are opportunities that students do not, and usually will not get. No company would like to risk a program by roping in raw engineering graduates. It usually takes years of experience before a design responsibility is awarded to an engineer. And engineers do not usually build airplanes: they get them built.

But without the exposure to design and construction, basics of aerodynamics and structures do not sink in.

Aircraft_PrepAlthough perceived by many as “toys", aeromodelling is the closest any student of aerospace engineering is going to get to designing, building, testing, and characterizing an aircraft, from an aerodynamics, powerplant and structures point of view. Aeromodelling is defined as, “the hobby of building and flying model aircraft". The aircraft are usually controlled from ground, with a radio controlled transmitter and receiver.

Unfortunately, the handful of aerospace engineering students in the country who take up aeromodelling related activities in the university pick up kits, which allow them to assemble an aircraft, with instructions. This is construction, sometimes plain assembly, but not design.

The truest spirit of aerospace engineering calls for the design of a radio-controlled aircraft, analysis of the radio controlled aircraft, fabrication of the radio controlled aircraft, and test flying the aircraft. An activity, if made compulsory in the education system at the university level, will have a strong impact on the future set of aerospace engineers in the country, and hopefully, the aerospace programs, none of which have made the country proud, yet.

1 thought on “Aeromodelling: Making better design engineers”

  1. Wow, I’ve always considered Aerospace Engineers on the caliber of rocket scientists. I’m really surprised to read that they are considered lower on the scale of engineering students in India.

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