Are you interested in things that fly? Choosing to study aerospace engineering in college could be for you! Aerospace engineering is the study of air and space travel. It is often referred to as “rocket science.” Aerospace engineers research, design, construct, test and maintain aircraft, spacecraft, missiles and related systems and equipment. They also are concerned with flight safety, operating costs, fuel efficiency and environmental impacts.
The field can be broken down to two major overlapping branches- aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineers concentrate on aircraft that fly within the earth's atmosphere (airplanes, jets, and helicopters), while astronautical engineers focus on spacecraft and launch vehicles.
A good background of math and physics classes in high school is important for students applying to aerospace engineering programs. There are many colleges that offer degrees in aerospace engineering. Some of these include: MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology, Caltech, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Perdue University. Check out the U.S. News list of the top ranked aerospace engineering programs.
Due to COVID-19 the traditional college search has changed. Since campus visits can't happen, many colleges now offer virtual information sessions. These sessions are done in different ways. Many are offered in a webinar format with interactive chat for questions. Some are prerecorded slideshows of information. Some schools offer just general information sessions, while others have general sessions and sessions on specific majors. Most also offer a virtual tour of the school so you can get a better visual of the campus. Virtual info sessions are often found on the Visit Campus Page of a college's website. In addition, many colleges look for demonstrated interest in their school from their applicants. Traditionally, this would be shown by college visits and interviews, but with today's changes, signing up for virtual info sessions are also counted.Here are links to several schools with engineering programs that currently offer virtual information sessions.
There are many courses that students should take in high school that will help them get accepted to a college engineering program. It is a good idea to take as many STEM courses as you can. These include math (calculus if possible), science (chemistry, physics and biology), computer programming and any engineering classes (such as Project Lead The Way) that may be offered at your high school. Engineering schools look for students with an interest and an aptitude in these areas. They also look to see if the student challenged themselves in the courses they took in high school, such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses. AP classes in the STEM field will provide a foundation for classes required in college engineering programs. In addition, AP classes might possibly get some courses out of the way before the student actually starts college.
Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. Relating to engineering education, this could take the form of internships, co-ops, capstone projects or research. Basically, experiential learning bridges the gap between theory and practice. It provides a hands on experience to learn and understand specific practices in engineering. For example, it is one thing to work on the textbook problem of how to achieve better flow to produce a greater output of Chemical A at processing Plant X, and another to be an intern at Plant X seeing first hand where the issue lies in the piping and raw materials and speaking to the workers involved in the production process to find the best solution to get more output.
Internships and cooperative education programs (co-ops) are learning experiences where the student actually works for a company in a given field. Internships are shorter (a summer or a semester) and could be both paid and unpaid, part time or full time. Co-ops are longer and involve a more in depth work experience. Students stop taking classes to work full time (usually 3-6 months at a time), and are typically paid. The longer work experience of a co-op can give students an edge over their peers when they are looking for jobs after graduation.
Capstone projects and research are other ways to gain valuable experience and knowledge in your field. Working on a research project is a great way to apply the theories learned in your studies and explore a topic in greater depth. Similarly, capstone projects combine theory and practical experience to solve a problem or issue.
Not all engineering programs offer experiential learning opportunities. Many have it built into their curriculum. Others do not offer these experiences and the student has to look for them on their own.
Experiential learning is a valuable way to increase your understanding and knowledge of a subject through hands on experience. In addition, experiential learning will increase the student's value in the job market upon graduation. When looking into engineering schools it is beneficial to find out if the program you are considering offers experiential learning.