MAE Colloquium - Autumn 2014

The Aerospace Engineering Colloquium (AE 598) is a required course that satisfies the professional development component of the Master of Aerospace Engineering (MAE).MAE students are required to complete nine (9) credits of colloquium participation to satisfy the degree requirements. Only students admitted into the MAE degree program are eligible to enroll in this course for credit. However, all students and faculty are welcome to attend.

Topics may include current research and advances in aerospace technology as well as other themes relevant to the professional development of aerospace engineers. To earn credit for this course, students must complete a required set of writing assignments.

Faculty Coordinator: Prof. Kuen Lin

September 29 - First Meeting

MAE Colloquium Overview

Welcome and Introduction to MAE Colloquium

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Download Writing Assignment Details (pdf)


October 6

Surviving & Thriving in Graduate School

Based on input from past and current graduate students, Prof. Edwards will share strategies to help you make the most of your graduate experience (and even maintain your sanity and home life while you are at it).

Come prepared to ask questions, offer insights, and share resources with your peers. The UW Graduate School will connect you with resources, tips, and tools to help you survive in this strange land called academia.

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Presentation Slides (pdf)

Suggested Readings:
(1) "What I Learned About Surviving Graduate School", The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 2012)
(2) "How Does She Do It?", The Fairhall Lab (Blog)


October 13

Pushback Rate Control: The Design and Field-Testing of an Airport Congestion Control Algorithm

Increased congestion on the airport surface has increased taxi times, fuel consumption, and emissions. In this talk, Prof. Balakrishnan will describe how operational data can be used to develop and validate queuing models of airport operations. These models yield new insights on the effect of different factors such as weather, runway usage, and aircraft fleet mix on airport performance. They also help predict the behavior of an airport under different operating conditions.

Prof. Balakrishnan will then show that these queuing models can be used to design Pushback Rate Control, a new airport congestion control technique to regulate the rate at which flights push back from their gates. The algorithm computes optimal pushback rates using approximate dynamic programming, but equally important, is a method that can be implemented in practice because it works in concert with human air traffic controllers. To evaluate the effectiveness and practicality of the algorithm, we conducted field tests with our implementation at Boston's Logan Airport. She will describe the results of these field tests and what was learned in the process.

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Presentation Slides (pdf)

Suggested Readings:
(1) Simaiakis, I; Balakrishnan, H., "Dynamic control of airport departures: Algorithm development and field evaluation," American Control Conference (ACC), 2012 , vol., no., pp.1695,1701, 27-29 June 2012
(2) Sandberg, M.; Simaiakis, I; Balakrishnan, H.; Reynolds, T.G.; Hansman, R.J., "A Decision Support Tool for the Pushback Rate Control of Airport Departures," Human-Machine Systems, IEEE Transactions on , vol.44, no.3, pp.416,421, June 2014


October 20

Aerospace Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering (AerosPACE)

  • Michael Richey, Associate Technical Fellow
    Learning, Training, and Development, The Boeing Company

For large companies in aerospace industries, almost 50% of current employees will be eligible for retirement within 5 years. Aerospace Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering (AerosPACE) is a collaborative University-Industry partnership with the vision of developing a integrated engineering design course that motivates students to enter the aerospace profession and fills gaps in student competencies related to working in the globalized workplace. Acknowledging that traditional undergraduate programs may not fully equip graduates with all critical skills needed for the complex challenges of the 21st century, the purpose of this lecture is to present the fundamental concept and overall architecture for a unique capstone program where geographically dispersed, multi-university, multi-disciplinary teams of students collaborate with industrial professionals on challenging aerospace designs.

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October 27

The Innovative Imperative

The aerospace industry has a century-long track record of continuous improvement and innovation. There are many market, regulatory, and technological drivers pushing the development of aircraft. Through the lens of airplane performance improvement with structural technology, this presentatoin will discuss how innovation translates to market value and why innovation can seem to take a very long time to mature, followed by explosive growth in introduction rate.


November 3

Applying Distributed Parameter Systems Theory to Physics Based Modeling

In this talk Prof. Burns will discuss the process and corresponding computational issues involved with constructing finite dimensional physics based models from infinite dimensional systems. The presentation will emphasize the importance of first deciding how the model is to be used. In particular, the first step in constructing a model should be to decide what problem or problems will the model be used to solve and, if possible, what solution methods will be used. Prof. Burns will provide examples to illustrate how this decision can impact the choice of approximation and demonstrate issues that can arise if the approximation is not done with care. Finally, he will discuss a some simulation and control problems for simple thermal-fluid systems such as heat exchangers and illustrate how one can use the system physics to help deal with model requirements.

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Suggested Readings:
(1) Jeff Borggaard, John Burns, "A PDE Sensitivity Equation Method for Optimal Aerodynamic Design", Journal of Computational Physics, Volume 136, Issue 2, 15 September 1997, Pages 366-384, ISSN 0021-9991,
(2) H. T. Banks, I. G. Rosen, and K. Ito, "A Spline Based Technique for Computing Riccati Operators and Feedback Controls in Regulator Problems for Delay Equations", SIAM Journal on Scientific and Statistical Computing 1984 5:4, 830-855.
(3) Athans, M., "Toward a practical theory for distributed parameter systems," Automatic Control, IEEE Transactions on , vol.15, no.2, pp.245,247, April 1970 doi: 10.1109/TAC.1970.1099413


November 10

Ordered Granular Metamaterials: From Nonlinear Waves and Breathers to Acoustic Filtering and Passive Wave Redirection

Prof. Vakakis' presentatoin will discusse ordered granular media in designs of highly discontinuous and tunable nonlinear acoustic metamaterials capable of stress wave tailoring, passive shock mitigation, energy confinement and pulse redirection. It will include a theoretical and experimental study of scalable strongly nonlinear interactions within these media. This fundamental work focuses on understanding energy transfer phenomena induced by strong nonlinearities due to Hertzian interactions and separations/collisions between granules.

There is a complete absence of linear acoustics in this type of media since they possess zero speed of sound (as defined in the classical sense), and, hence, are designated as sonic vacua (Nesterenko, 2001). Yet we show that these media exhibit highly complex, strongly nonlinear dynamics and acoustics, including countable infinities of nonlinear resonances, families of solitary waves and traveling waves; nonlinear stop and pass bands; stationary and traveling breathers; and the capacity for passive pulse localization or redirection. Further, we show that nonlinear resonances lead to strong attenuation of propagating pulses through effective energy scattering from low to higher frequencies, so they can be designed as effective shock and vibration mitigators.. New methodologies, are developed including extension of Witham’s modulation theory to near zero-frequency solitary pulses; reduced order modeling based on slow/fast decompositions and asymptotic analysis for accurate prediction of primary pulse transmission; and application of the Landau-Zenner tunneling quantum effect for passive pulse redirection. An ongoing experimental program confirms these theoretical predictions, and aims to transfer these fundamental concepts of strongly nonlinear dynamics and acoustics to practical acoustic metamaterial designs with robust stress wave tailoring properties.

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November 17

The Right Kind of Crazy: Engineering the Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent, and Landing System

The Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing System was used to successfully land the Curiosity Rover on Mars in 2012. The landing included many firsts, including the use of the Sky Crane landing system that softly set Curiosity down on its wheels on the surface of Mars. While often described as appearing crazy, the Sky Crane solution was the result of carefully considered engineering design decisions, both driven by the need to land safely and the need to deploy Curiosity once on the surface. Dr. Steltzner will discuss the several elements of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity landing system including the propulsion design, the radar development and the Sky Crane touchdown system.

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Suggested Readings:
(1) Adam Steltzner et al., "Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent, and Landing System Overview", Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2010.
(2) "How a Sky Crane Helped NASA Nail Its Most Audacious Landing Yet", Popular Science (Online), 2012.


November 24

No Colloquium This Week


December 1

Aircraft Noise

Airplane noise is pollution produced by the airplane during various phases of flight. Noise can have serious impact on human hearing and communities near the airport. This presentation will discuss various airplane noise sources on the ground while parked at the gate; during taxiing, takeoff and landing; and during flight and the overall impact on passengers, crew members and communities near an airport.

High interior noise levels can affect crew and passenger comfort on a civilian aircraft; while on a military aircrafts, high noise levels may influence the mission performance and cause safety concerns due to poor communication. The main emphasis of this presentation will be on dominant noise path/source isolating techniques, noise exposure limits and designing cost- and weight-effective noise control treatments.

Suggested Readings:
(1) “Aircraft Noise: A Review,” by M.J.T. Smith, Rolls-Royce Limited, 1988.
(2) “Engineering Noise Control – Theory and Practice,” by David A. Bies and Colin H. Hansen, Fourth edition, 2009, CRC Press, New York.
(3) “Interior Noise. Aeroacoustics of Flight Vehicles: Theory and Practice,” J.S. Mixon and J.F. Wilby, NASA TR-90-3052, Vol. 2, pp. 271-348,1991.
(4) “Noise and Vibration Diagnostic and Control in Aerospace vehicles,” N.K. Agarwal, Acoustics Bulletin, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 32-37, Jan./Feb. 2008.