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46 : Pedagogical Innovation: the UTC formulæ

The key guidelines for pedagogical innovation implemented by UTC aim at ensuring the students become the actors of their personal learning process. This calls for collaborative work on real, scale-one problems, also for reverse educational lectures and serious games. The aim is not only to better arm our student-engineers to face their future professional career but also to adapt the university to comply with the specifics features that characterize a new generation of undergraduates.

46 : Pedagogical Innovation: the UTC formulæ

Rebuilding two legendary aircraft

Now, this is a credit course (CC) that many students would just love to have to take again! The aim and challenge is to ‘revive’ two mythical aircraft, one of which is a Latécoère that will be one of the key attractions of the exhibition 2018, to celebrate a century of air travel.

 In a partnership with the ‘Cercle des machines volantes’, a Compiegne-based ‘1901’ association, UTC is taking part in the reconstruction of a Caudron Rafale C430, a two-seater, single wing racer that made its maiden flight in 1934 and a Latécoère 28, the same as the model flown by Jean Mermoz for the first ever South Atlantic crossing in 1930. Both planes – where the reconstruction work makes use of modern technologies such as CAD and/or computational modelling techniques...) must comply with today’s airworthiness standards in order to be allowed to fly, while remaining as close as possible to the original aircraft specifications.

The operation – which started years ago – counts a permanent staff of between 5 to 7 lecturer research scientists each monitoring the work of 2 to 4 student-engineers who are assigned specific tasks (worth one CC- one semester), e.g., linen fabric properties for wing/fuselage covers, CAD engine re-design… and once their CC has been certified satisfactory, the students hand over their work on to class of students (and generally speaking there is no lack of candidates). “Discovering hands-on the principles of airflow over and under a wing is far more motivating than doing an applied maths seminar on the same subject!” notes Jean-Marc Picard, UTC professor with the department of Mech.Engineering who proposed and pioneered this project at UTC.

“What we see here is one attractive pedagogy-related aspect of the project: to be able to transmit a certain number of complex notions, while having the students tackle and analyse some very enriching problems. For example, in retro-engineering. None of the Caudron Rafale C430 technical drawings exist now, so we had to digitize every single part and there is no model of this aircraft where all the parts had been restored perfectly. Or again, in the area of materials: the student became aware that wood and linen fabric, ‘noble’ and ecological matter used in planes of yesteryears are very proposing, inasmuch as we can now use non-destructive tests (ultrasonics/ infrared …) to check for absence of faults invisible to an eye-inspection where the material resistance might be endangered”.

A federating project

Another attractive feature is that the project as a whole is transverse, calling for, many different skills: mechanical engineering, materials, computer sciences and their applications and even bio-engineering for the choice of wood or linen. “The experience is federating and gives the students a wider vision of engineering sciences and likewise prepares them for a future professional position, as a sort of orchestra conductor with mastery of the full gamut of engineering techniques and skills”, underlines Jean-Marc Picard.

Last point: the reconstruction of these two aircraft involves participation of students registered for a credit course (CC) in project management – and in this role they are entrusted with scheduling, task distribution, planning and follow-up, PR & communications and a constant search for new sponsors.

Again, being a scale-one exercise, the project provides excellent training.

Ever since it was launched, this project has served as a regular spring board, professionally speaking, for the student-engineers. Several participants have carried out their internships in the aeronautical sector and for a few registered for a Master’s degree in aeronautics, with either the "University of Brunswick – Institute of Technology" (Germany) or the Cranfield University (UK), before being recruited in aeronautics.