SE 143A&B Aerospace Structural Design I & II

Class of 2017
Class of 2018
Class of 2019

Description of Course

This course is the two-quarter senior capstone experience for students in the Aerospace Structures focus sequence.

UC San Diego’s Structural Engineering curriculum seeks to bridge the gap between academia and industry by offering students the opportunity to experience the aerospace design and development process from start to finish.

Students work in teams design a wing of an unmanned aerial system (UAS) using advanced composite materials. At various review milestones throughout the project, students present their progress to industry professionals and collect feedback on both the conceptual designs as well as the physical prototypes. The project culminates in a full-scale composite wing, which is then subjected to vibration and structural testing. Experimental results are analyzed and interpreted, and correlated with analyses, as part of quantifying their wing’s performance.


Winter Quarter: Phase I.

Preliminary Design & Analysis | Detail Design & Analysis | Manufacturing Trials | Learning & Building Detailed Analysis Capability

Spring Quarter: Phase II.

Manufacturing and Assembly | Refined Analysis & Failure Prediction | Testing | Data Reduction | Analysis Correlation & Model Validation

Senior Hands-On Capstone Experience

This is an all encompassing student design project with obstacles and creative opportunities within every aspect, challenging our students in areas such as graphical analysis abilities, engineering communication, hands-on manufacturing skills, and much more.

Featured here are some of the key components and phases of the project.

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

Problem Criteria & Design

An initial design is developed through a series of trade-off studies; students must weigh aerodynamic efficiency, structural performance, weight, and manufacturability.

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

Section Manufacturing Trials

Students test their design concepts and practice manufacturing techniques on small sections of a wing mold to understand and address key challenges. They are able to structurally test critical parts to validate their models while developing confidence in manufacturing the final assembled part.

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

FEA Analysis & Calculations

Students use sophisticated graphical and analysis programs to model the distributed aerodynamic loading on their wings. They are tasked with a making a variety of predictions to develop their wing design, such as laminate failure, skin buckling, bolted and bonded connection stresses, large bending and torsion deformation, and natural vibration frequencies.

Primary software used in this course:

Matlab | Abaqus | Solidworks

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

Full Wing Manufacture & Assembly

A large portion of the capstone project experience is manufacturing and assembling the final wing. These wings are between 6 and 9 feet in length and require many hours of detailed composite lay-up, bonded assembly, trimming, and other manufacturing steps needed to achieve a high quality completed structure.

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

Large Scale Wing Testing

Structural testing is the key phase of the project, where the student's final wings are finally put to the test. The wings are fastened to the strong wall within the High Bay Aerospace Laboratory and connected to a series of testing components and data acquisition system. Strain gauges are placed in key locations on the wing, and displacement potentiometers and load cells are used to collect critical engineering data. The wings undergo a vibration test and then ultimately loaded quasi-statically until failure.

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

Failure Evaluation & Correlation to Analysis

A critical aspect of the course is evaluating the accuracy of structural behavior predictions, namely stiffness, strength, and failure modes. After large scale testing, students investigate their wings for structural damages and assess how these failure points led to the data and results collected. Some of the common failure modes include bearing failure, spar bending failure, bonded joint failure, and delamination. These findings are correlated back to their analysis and manufacturing techniques to draw meaningful engineering conclusions.