Engineering Graduates Bring Interactive Learning to Future Students
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Engineering Graduates Bring Interactive Learning to Future Students

rocket launchImagine the powerful thrust of a rocket lifting off into space. Now imagine the sounds and vibrations that occur. This "earful" of noises is just what mechanical engineer Wesaam Lepak ’18 and acoustical engineer Jarrett Lagler ‘18 like to learn about. And, while both think traditional lectures are valuable, when the two recent graduates had a chance to create a video tutorial around the sounds of an actual rocket launch, they took the opportunity. (You can watch the students’ video here).

“We knew Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, was launching its first Falcon Heavy Rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on February 6, 2018,” says Lepak, who is moving on to complete his second NASA internship this summer and will attend Purdue University in the fall to pursue a master’s in mechanical engineering. “Jarrett and I approached Assistant Professor Eoin King with the idea to use the rocket launch as a platform for explaining the principles around how sound travels and how rockets are affected by sound vibrations during launch.”

Studying the sounds emitted during a launch helps engineers design and redesign a rocket’s system for safety. Both low- and high-frequency sound waves can affect a rocket. Low-frequency waves are known to potentially harm the vehicle and the crew’s health, while high-pitched frequencies can damage the more complex, smaller interior parts.

The seniors received funding for the trip and video tutorial as part of a student-faculty engagement grant provided by the University. “The benefits were twofold”, explains King, who has created other short educational videos on topics related to acoustics. “As students, Jarrett and Wesaam put acoustic principles into practice and received a hands-on learning experience, while future students will benefit more from learning interactively.” Research supporting the benefits of interactive learning and the positive role it plays in engineering education was the subject of a recent paper titled By Teaching, We Learn—Creating Video Demonstrations of Simple Acoustic Principles, which was presented by King at the 2018 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Northeast Regional Conference.

“Using the excitement of the launch to demonstrate a few simple principles that we learned in some of our fundamental acoustics courses allowed us to leave a legacy behind of both learning and the enthusiasm we share for the field of acoustics, says Lagler, who is moving on to work as an acoustical engineer at Apple.