DFAN Logo
DFAN Logo

Department of Aeronautics

Research Policies

 

Research is one way that DFAN faculty can serve as role models for cadets in support of the Dean’s Educational Outcomes (i.e. critical and independent thinking, lifelong learning, framing and resolving ill-defined problems, working effectively with others, and pursuing one’s intellectual curiosity).  DFAN believes that these attributes are best passed along to the cadets not by lecturing on their importance, but by setting an example through personal interaction.

Research at undergraduate institutions has traditionally been designed, not so much to stretch the minds of students, as to teach lab procedures and analysis.  The USAFA Department of Aeronautics is unique in that it has both the facilities and the DoD sponsorship to research real-world problems. This presents unique challenges to the department that must be faced and solved by department leadership and the research staff. This document will lay out the DFAN guidance, policies and procedures for conducting its research program. Most of these decisions were discussed at a department offsite on 20 May 2003.

Academic Year research projects will be accepted only if cadet involvement can be expected within a reasonable amount of time: this includes explaining to the sponsor the timing necessary to work on a semester basis. Summer requirements and projects may be different. The decision to accept a project will be made jointly by the Center Director,AE 471 Course Dircetor, and Lab Director. If necessary, funding and deliverables shall be agreed upon by the Sponsor and DFAN in letter proposal or some equivalent contracting document.

The main challenge facing the department in the research area is the same one that has made us so successful: 

We want each cadet to have a meaningful and well-supported research experience involving a current real-world DOD aeronautics problem.

This refers primarily to AE471 and requires finding appropriate project/sponsor matches and then being responsible for a high quality educational experience for the cadets.  If money is accepted from a sponsor, then high quality work will be performed and documented in a paper and presented to the sponsor in a briefing. This is a higher standard than if the project was a non-sponsored undergraduate project. The department promotes faculty research activity so that involvement of cadets is a natural extension of the classroom.  This eliminates the need for “make-work projects,” which fall short of delivering the educational enrichment that we owe the cadets. The department considers non-DoD or non-funded projects, on a per-case basis. All projects will be meaningful. Creating and assigning these projects is the joint responsibility of the Director of the Aeronautics Research Center, the AE471 Course Director, and the Lab Director.  We recognize that cadet motivation is a key factor in their research experience, and we will, to the best of our ability, strive to maximize the experience for each cadet.  We also recognize the importance of research in providing a platform for the faculty modeling of the Dean’s Educational Outcomes.

To complete this research, the department has set up the following research organization: 

A. Dept Staff (Dept Head & Deputies, Lab Director) helps determine research policies and make the determining calls when questions of manning, schedule, resources, or funding arise in the research program. 

B. The Research Center Directors report research results to the Dept Head, sponsors, and DF, in addition to managing their respective programs 

Aero Research Center

Mission: To provide every Aero major with a meaningful and well-supported experimental research experience.

Objectives:

  • Enrich cadet education

  • Promote faculty professional development

  • Solve USAF research problems

  • Serve as good stewards of a national research resource

Assessment -

Internal Metrics: 

  • Faculty observations

  • Technical accomplishment 

  • Written and oral presentations

  • Cadet feedback

External Metrics:

  • AIAA Student Paper Competition

  • Feedback from research sponsors

  • Engineering Program Advisory Board

  • Publications

  • Conferences

  • Journals

Modeling & Simulation Research Center

Mission: Create an environment that allows faculty and cadets to perform cutting-edge modeling and simulation research in support of DoD research programs.

Objectives:

  • Enrich cadet education

  • Promote faculty professional development

  • Solve DoD research problems

  • Stay current with computational facilities and methods to support M&S

Assessment:  

Internal Metrics: 

  • Faculty observations

  • Technical accomplishment 

  • Written and oral presentations

  • Cadet Feedback

    External Metrics:

  • Professional Society Student Paper Competition

  • Feedback from research sponsors

  • Engineering Program Advisory Board

  • Publications

  • Conference

  • Journal 

Director of Resources

In concert with Finance Committee, polls CDs and Research PIs to create dept budget, sets level of research tax (pending), writes FINPLAN, oversees PIs/CDs in tracking spending, to include dept O&M monies. 

Lab Director

Calls & runs finance committee meetings as required, but at least 2/semester; directs lab staff in planning and budgeting of resources in coordination with Center Directors, sets policies on and allocates resources available to research projects and people; defines lab equipment/improvement needs.

AE471 Principal Investigators are any DFAN faculty or researchers who’ve audited AE471 and/or new instructors, or have been a PI in the past. The Center Directors will decide when foreign researchers can perform this role, but they still have to audit the course or have been a PI under someone else. The number of 471 projects for these PIs is negotiable, but with the other duties most of us have, two seems to be the recognized maximum. 

What it takes to be a good 471/499 PI:

  • Develop project problem statement and objectives

    Coordinate with:

  • Facility technician

  • Deputy of Engineering (Tim Hayden)

  • Machine shop

    Provide cadets with theory, background, and a few pertinent papers

    Assist with the experimental set-up

    Lead the cadets through each step of the process

    Let them make decisions and creative contributions but supervise them carefully

    Be there for approximately 50% of testing

    Insist on periodic meetings (weekly works well)

The department AIC will equalize the AE471 course loading between fall and spring semesters in coordination with the AE471 CD.

Historically, DFAN is at or near the top of cadet engineering instructor ratings every year. To keep that going we want our faculty committed to excellence in teaching and mentoring. Research has been, and continues to be, a very important part of that success. However, research wil lnever supplant the educational mission. Research supports the USAFA mission by providing opportunities to solve real engineering problems, thus enhancing the quality of education. It does not compete with the educational mission.

U.S. Air Force Academy, USAFA, CO 80840, (719) 333-1110 DSN: 333-1110, Updated: 01 Sep 14
Privacy & Security Notice   |   External Link Disclaimer   |   Contact Us / Submit Feedback / Webmaster | Accessibility/Section 508