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Aerospace Engineering

USNA Aerospace Engineering Program Educational Objectives

Context of our Program Educational Objectives

The mission of the United States Naval Academy is to:

Develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.

The Naval Academy produces officers who serve in the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Therefore, the goals and outcomes of all the academic programs, including the Aerospace Engineering program, support the Naval Academy mission. Academic activities are conducted under the leadership of the Academic Dean and Provost.

The Academy’s mission is the basis for its Strategic Plan, which undergoes periodic evaluation to ensure it reflects the Navy’s evolving goals and needs. Central to the Strategic Plan are the expected attributes of an Academy graduate. Irrespective of their specific discipline attributes, all departments and components at the Naval Academy must assess and evaluate their performance in terms of how they foster the development of these attributes in their students.

As codified in U.S. Naval Academy Strategic Plan 2020, the Academy expects graduates to be:

  1. Selfless: Selfless leaders who value diversity and create an ethical command climate through their example of personal integrity and moral courage.
  2. Inspirational: Mentally resilient and physically fit officers who inspire their team to accomplish the most challenging missions and are prepared to lead in combat.
  3. Proficient: Technically and academically proficient professionals with a commitment to continual learning.
  4. Innovative: Critical thinkers and creative decision makers with a bias for action.
  5. Articulate: Effective communicators.
  6. Adaptable: Adaptable individuals who understand and appreciate global and cross-cultural dynamics.
  7. Professional: Role models dedicated to the profession of arms, the traditions and values of the Naval Service and the constitutional foundation of the United States.

Responsibility for fostering these graduate attributes is allocated across the Academy’s six Centers of Excellence[1], two of which bear most directly on the academic majors: CoE 1 – Academic Excellence; and CoE 4 – Professional, Leadership, and Moral Excellence.

Within the requirements flow down just described, the mission of the Aerospace Engineering Department is to:

Provide the Navy and Marine Corps with engineering graduates who will grow to fill engineering, management and leadership roles in the Navy, government and industry, while maturing their fascination with air and space systems.

This mission in part expresses the department's legacy performance. Department graduates now occupy flag-level positions throughout the Navy (e.g. recent Commander of the Naval Space Warfare Systems Command), senior executive positions in industry (the President of the American Space Federation, CEO of Amgen Corporation, and the Chief Test Pilot of Gulfstream Aviation), and in government (NASA Houston’s Director of Manned Space Flight Director of the Johnson Space Center.). Department graduates are currently commanding aircraft carriers, fighter squadrons, major acquisition programs, the International Space Station, and until recently, space shuttle missions. Our graduates annually fill many of the available seats at the US Naval Test Pilot School, and the department has produced more astronauts than any other academic department in the country.

Our mission is currently pursued via our departmental vision:

Mission fulfilment requires a program throughout which Midshipmen Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate complex mission-effective aerospace systems in a modern, team-based environment.

Statement of Program Educational Objectives

We have established three Program Educational Objectives (PEOs) for the USNA Aerospace Engineering program to clarify the targets against which we measure success in achieving our mission. Our three PEOs are to produce junior officers who within ten years after graduation will have:

  1. Mastered the implementation, operation, and functional evaluation of complex aerospace systems while serving as technical subject-matter experts in team-based naval applications.
  2. Demonstrated superior insight into fundamental engineering principles while fulfilling engineering and project management roles in the conception, design, and maintenance of aerospace systems under conflicting constraints.
  3. Succeeded in a broad range of in-service and post-service technical leadership roles, Naval Service professional schools, and graduate engineering programs.

Our PEOs should be interpreted within the context of the highly specialized career field most of our Aerospace graduates enter. About 90% are selected for Naval Aviation. The extended commitment required in this field ensures nearly all of our graduates remain in the service until ten years after graduation in a well-defined set of career paths. Naval Aviation’s training track requires 2-4 years, timing the graduates’ peak professional contributions from four to ten years after graduation while serving as a junior officer (Navy LT or a Marine CAPT).  After ten years, these paths diverge to include line command, program offices and test squadrons for those who remain in the service, and government, industry, airlines, and other private sector roles for those who leave the service after satisfying their initial commitment.  We know that almost all of our graduates will still be on active duty in Unrestricted Line (operational) capacities for all ten years, so we selected the ten-year point as ideal for describing what our graduates will achieve.

Every USNA graduate leads teams operating advanced technology systems during their years as a junior officer. Not every operator need be an engineer, but every command needs engineers to serve as its technical experts and conscience; being an aerospace engineer provides the specific technical capacity to more readily excel in the operational comprehension, application and management of aerospace systems.

Specific roles filled by our graduates depend on the types of tours they embark upon.

  • During early operational tours, Aerospace Engineering majors often serve as a squadron’s or ship’s technical backbone. Commanding officers rely on them to be the first to master new technologies and systems, and to provide technical insight others in the command may rely on while operating and maintaining these systems. Success in these roles is measured through subsequent selection for Test Pilot School, graduate school programs, Weapons Schools and instructor duty in the Fleet Replacement Squadron.
  • During follow-on shore tours, Aerospace Engineering majors vitally contribute to staffs, programs offices, training squadrons, and test squadrons, all of which support the conceiving, designing, and implementing of future naval systems. Success in these roles is measured through subsequent selection for a variety of positions, e.g., fleet department head, Engineering Duty, and the Astronaut Office.

Validation of PEOs by External Stakeholders

The Fleet and Fleet Marine Force constitute the program's fundamental stakeholders: They pay the bills, and they employ every graduate. The faculty and enrolled midshipmen are stakeholders as well, but we cannot lose sight of our main product and customer: technically savvy junior officers for the Navy and Marine Corps.

The Aerospace Engineering Department is in the unique position of graduating our students almost exclusively into one branch of the naval service: Naval Aviation. Consequently, it is straightforward for us to identify specific commands to represent the larger body of naval aviation in dictating the desired program objectives and outcomes. These are the commands or organizations in which our graduates land mid-career, and many are within two hour’s drive of our campus.

They include:

  • Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS)
  • Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)
  • Naval Air Warfare Center- Aircraft Directorate (NAWC-AD)
  • Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR)
  • Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM)
  • NASA Astronaut Office and Headquarters
  • Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)
  • National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)
  • Navy Cyber Forces
  • Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)

These commands provide recurring formal and informal feedback and counsel through participation in design reviews, internship opportunities, guest lecturers, field trips, lab support, student and faculty research sponsorship, program reviews, and our visiting committee. These commands are integrally involved in establishing both our Program Student Outcomes and their relative weighting in the curriculum. This was performed via surveys designed by our CDIO initiative partners.

Furthermore, both the aeronautics program (EAS) and the astronautics program (EASA) have DoD customers for whom students are designing, building, and delivering operational UAVs and spacecraft. These design/build teams meet with their customers several times per semester to ensure the vehicles will satisfy the design requirements. In the case of the Small Satellite Program, this includes frequent visits to the launch integration contractor or the launch facility. This program has developed a reputation of delivering spacecraft for launch, on time, and satisfying the demanding requirements of flying on manned space vehicles.


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