AAE 551 Design Theory and Methods for Aerospace Systems
Prof. Crossley
Spring 2017


[Course Description]

[Course Goals]




[Campus Emergencies]

[Reading Assignments, Discussion and Projects]

[Late Submittals]

[Collaboration and Academic Integrity]

[Course Grades]

[Course Materials]

[Homepage] - [Syllabus] - [Topics]

Course Description

The following statements regarding aerospace systems motivated this course:

  • “When compared to other engineering products, aerospace products are: very expensive, require very high reliability, have highly visible failures (which are often not tolerated), involve high technology, are capable of self-destruction, and involve a complexity of the product, processes and organizations that design, develop and operate the product.”1
  • “…as engineering practice and industry needs continue to co-evolve, the continuing need for the ‘subject matter experts’ (engineering science specialists)…will be increasingly complemented by the need for more ‘systems’ talent…”2
  • “We’ve experienced program failures in the past because of inadequacies in these fields (science, technology and systems engineering).”3
  • “…we are identifying ways to improve SE [Systems Engineering] throughout the acquisition process, including workforce issues such as education and training; tools …policies, instructions, and guidance”4

With these thoughts in mind, this course will provide an introduction to design theory and methods and their relationship to systems engineering as practiced in the aerospace industry.  The course covers a range of topics and has an instructor-led discussion format.  Student participation in discussions will factor in the course grades.  Several projects during the semester will allow students to put the techniques and theory discussed into practice for representative aerospace system design problems.

1 MIT Professor of Practice, Charles Boppe (1996)

2 Boeing Technical Fellow, John McMasters (2006)

3 Secretary of the Air Force James Roche (2003)

4 Undersecretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Marv Sambur (2003)

Course Goals

This course has three major goals:

  1. To provide students with descriptions and example applications of design tools and methods
  2. To provide students with opportunities for application of these tools to aerospace systems problems
  3. To introduce students to systems engineering and its practice in the aerospace engineering community


Students enrolled in this course should be graduate engineering students or should be senior-level engineering undergraduates who are currently enrolled in or have already completed their capstone design experience / course. 



The University Regulations Handbook reads: "Students are expected to be present for every meeting of the classes in which they are enrolled."  If you must miss a class, you are responsible for the reading material, discussion, assignments and/or announcements made.  Because the course has a strong in-class discussion component, excessive absence from the class will negatively affect the participation portion of the grade.

For class participation purposes, the instructor may also examine student activity on the Blackboard site for the course.

Campus Emergencies

In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines and grading percentages are subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar or other circumstances.  Information about these changes will be available from the public website for this course, the Blackboard Learn page, via my e-mail (crossley (at) or my office phone (765-496-2872).

Reading Assignments, Discussion and Projects

The course format is that of a reading / discussion / project course.  During most class periods, the students and instructor will discuss the related reading assignments. The Blackboard Learn page shows the reading assignments for the days they will be discussed.  Check the Blackboard Learn page often, as the schedule and assignments will change as the semester progresses.  Access to Blackboard Learn is restricted to students currently enrolled in the course.

AAE 551 will not have traditional exams.

Discussion and Notebooks

During each class period, the students and instructor will discuss the assigned reading material.  The timing of these papers appears in the calendar on the Blackboard Learn page.  Students are expected to read the papers BEFORE the class period and must be prepared to participate. All class members should be prepared to contribute on points like the following.

  • The main point of the reading material

  • A restatement and interpretation of the topics

  • An application of the topics to an aerospace design problem or to your personal experience

  • A comparison to other papers or pertinent material

  • An evaluation of this material in terms of quality and substance

The majority of the discussion should focus on assisting the entire class to bring themselves to a level at which they can evaluate the topics. This evaluation may include how the topics relate to previous class discussions, how and where they fit into aerospace design and the aerospace design process, how the topics may improve the design process, and the practicality of the topics.  Keep in mind that not everyone will share the same point of view.

Because class discussions will comprise a major portion of knowledge acquisition for this course, it is important for all class members to be prepared to participate during class. Maintaining a dedicated notebook will help facilitate good class discussions.

Use the following guidelines in preparing your notebooks:

  • Read the assigned material before class.

  • Take notes in a notebook before coming to class.  For each assigned paper or article, record the material's author(s) and title.  List the main points in your own words.

  • When possible, demonstrate (or propose) an application of the techniques, ideas or theories from the reading to an aerospace engineering system design problem.

  • Add notes during the class discussion.

  • Summarize the material in a few paragraphs. You may wish to do this immediately after the class discussion.

This instructor will collect your notebooks during the semester as part of evaluating student participation in the class discussions.  Depending upon the feasibility, the instructor may transition this to a journal or similar tool on Blackboard.


Students will complete five projects during the semester; one corresponding to each major design “theme”.  These projects will provide students with the opportunities to practice some of the design methods and work with some of the design tools encountered during the semester.  While small teams of students will conduct the work needed for each project, students in the course must submit their own, individually written document. 

The project assignments will be available from the Blackboard Learn page for viewing, but students will submit their written reports via Purdue's Gradient tool.  Gradient allows for peer evaluation of the written assignments and includes a self assessment; these features provide advantages for the course. The reports will be due at 11:50pm on the due date.  The calibration, peer evaluation, and self assessment steps will begin at 12:00am, 10 minutes after the due date.  Students will have approximately one week to complete these additional steps in Gradient.

Should students wish to use the SafeAssign tool to check their projects for issues about properly citing references, etc., the project reports can be uploaded to Blackboard, but reports uploaded to Blackboard will not be graded.

Final Project

A final project concludes the course.  In the spirit of this replacing the final examination of everything you learned in the course, this final project allows students to demonstrate knowledge gained in the class and how the various themes and methods covered in the course are linked in a design cycle sequence.

Late Submittals

AAE 551 will use Gradient to facilitate peer evaluation of the written projects, so late projects cannot be submitted.

If there are extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control (e.g., illness, family emergency, bereavement, etc.), the instructor will determine an alternative way to accept late project reports.

Collaboration and Academic Integrity

Collaboration with other students for most of the AAE 551 projects will be a necessity.   Most engineering design activities take place with teams of engineers, and most of the methods covered in class include features or aspects to foster the “social” aspect of team-based design.

However, each student is responsible for completing his / her own project report.  All submitted work must be demonstrably independent from that of other students (e.g., have the same tables, design matrices, concept sketches, etc. as your teammates is expected, but the discussion text for each student needs to demonstrate that student’s individual thought about the topic covered in the project). 

Plagiarism of other available literature – or copying from reports of students enrolled in previous offerings of AAE 551- in the projects is not acceptable.  The instructor will use plagiarism detection software to screen work submitted by the students.  Students may often find that they need to cite and / or use statements from available published work in their AAE 551 project reports; in these cases, the student should use a proper citation format.

If copying and / or plagiarism is detected, this will result minimally with a failing or zero grade for that particular assignment and, at the instructor’s discretion, may result in a failing grade for the course.  Additionally, as recommended by the Provost’s office, all incidents of academic misconduct will be forwarded to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR), where university penalties, including removal from the university, may be considered.

Students may report issues of abuse of or violation of academic integrity that they observe through the Office of the Dean of Students ( by calling 765-494-8778 or by email to

Course Grades

Because this course will be a reading / discussion / project class, grades will be based on your ability:

  • to read literature about aerospace design and participate in critical discussions of this literature

  • to complete projects during the semester that make use of the topics and methods discussed in the course and that require a written project report that includes an assessment of the topics and methods

Computation of final course grades will use the following distribution:

Discussion / Participation / Notebook


Projects (4, each worth 20%)


(NOTE: Per the in-class discussion on Thu 22 Mar 2017, the grading scheme has been updated to reflect four projects and the discussion / participation / notebook as five equally contributing parts to the final grade.  There will be no separate final project for the Spring 2017 semester)

The projects here involve using design methods to address problems with no single correct answer and providing an assessment of these methods with no single correct perspective, so the grading of the course will account for this.  The course will use the peer-evaluation tool Gradient to assign scores for each project.  While the intent is to use the Gradient score directly as the project score, the instructor retains the right to override the Gradient score in situations where this is appropriate.

The instructor will not award “numerical points” for each project or for the participation / notebook score; rather, he will assign a letter grade based on your participation in class and on the assessment of your notebook. Each of these grades will then be converted to a numerical score, as shown in the table below. For grades below C-, the same interval concept will apply.

Letter to numerical score for discussion / participation / notebook






















Using the converted numerical scores for course participation and the projects following the distribution given above, final letter grades for the course will use the table below. The total numerical score will be rounded to the nearest integer percent. For grades below C-, the same interval will apply.

Numerical to letter conversion for final grades







98 to 100%


88 to 89%


78 to 79%


93 to 97%

83 to 87%

73 to 77%

90 to 92%


80 to 82%


70 to 72%


Grade assignment will use a criterion (straight-scale) approach, but the instructor reserves the right to curve the grades if appropriate.  Under no circumstance will the scale be more stringent than the criterion given below (e.g. 93% or above will always earn an A), and the curve will never span more than one grade scale (e.g. the lowest A possible when grades are curved is 83%).  A total score of 50% or lower will always fail.

If students have a concern about a grade on their report, they should bring it to the attention of the instructor as soon as possible.  Students must make requests for reconsideration / regrading within one week of when the project score becomes available to the students.


Course Materials

There is no required textbook for the course.  Students will receive several papers and excerpts from books for assigned reading.  Reading material will be available from the Blackboard Learn site; access is limited to students currently enrolled in the course.

Students are to read this material BEFORE the material is discussed.  All students should be prepared to participate in the class discussions; please see the discussion description above for additional information.


Modified 22 March 2017