• About
  • Advanced Search
  • Browse Proceedings
  • Access Policy
  • Sponsor
  • Contact
  • A curriculum in engineering science directed toward astrautics

    Paper ID



    • M. Summerfield


    Princeton University






    Most of the other lectures in this session on the impact of astronautics on engineering education have treated individual subjects in the engineering curriculum. Each has shown the changes that have taken place in the scope of the particular subject as a result of present interest in astronautics. This lecture, on the other hand, is concerned with the curriculum as a whole. For example, which courses should a student in engineering take? In what ways does the selection of courses to compose an engineering curriculum differ from that of 20 years ago ? How does the philosophy of the curriculum today differ from that of 20 years ago? Important changes have taken place in our concept of what an engineer is expected to do, what he must know, and how he should be educated. In particular, the courses that an engineering student studies today are not the same as twenty years ago. He is expected to do much more independent study to supplement his formal course work. Above all, he is expected to be much more creative as a student and to display much more initiative in formulating his particular program of study. The points of educational philosophy stressed in this paper are subsequently illustrated by analysis of the educational program in aerospace propulsion at Princeton University. But, these points of educational philosophy are not limited to Princeton’s curriculum in aerospace propulsion, nor are they limited to Princeton University. They represent a growing trend in all technical disciplines and in many other universities. The following remarks summarize in the opinion of the author the main points of educational philosophy and practice that distinguish technical education today from that of twenty or thirty years ago. These relatively new features have resulted from the stimulus given to engineering education by the emergence of the new fields of nuclear power, high frequency communications, automation, high speed aeronautics, and astronautics. Education for these new fields (especially astronautics) necessitated important changes in the curriculum. Some of the trends are as follows: (1) Emphasis on basic engineering sciences and reduction of emphasis on design practice in the university. The student learns practical engineering and design when he goes to work in industry. (2) Greater emphasis for the engineer on mathematics and theoretical subjects. This gives the student greater versatility and greater capacity to attack new types of engineering projects later in his career. (3) Broad study in diverse disciplines instead of limited study in a single department. This is important at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The idea is that modern engineering developments require simultaneous consideration of several disciplines; an engineer trained in only a single narrow discipline cannot carry out such developments. (4) Constant advancement and modernization of course content. The student becomes flexible and independent in his study habits; he learns that knowledge of a subject is not limited to a single book or to a static curriculum. (5) More advanced study for the engineer in the sciences of physics and chemistry, in place of some narrowly specialized engineering courses. (6) Greater allowance for the student’s individual interests and abilities in selection of courses. The curriculum is not rigid.