Redstone College, which has become known for its airframe and powerplant and advanced electronics technology (avionics) programs, is currently working hard to make significant improvements to its course content, instructional tools, equipment and methodologies in order to better prepare students for the complexities of the field in the 21st century. The school is constantly working with the FAA to make sure the education students are receiving in the airframe and powerplant degree program is in compliance with the latest technology and regulations.
One of the major areas in which Redstone has strived for improvement is its class and curriculum organization. One of the problems they have faced is that the teaching of turbine engines and their systems had become fractured, with a basic class on turbine engine theory followed by multiple classes on a variety of systems. Redstone asked the FAA to approve a reorganization of the material so the theory class was more comprehensive and cohesive, while the study of various systems was combined and taught as a single follow-up class. The FAA approved the change, which ensured a firm foundation in theory and made the connection between various turbine systems clearer. The result has been that students have shown a dramatic increase in their understanding of the complexity of turbine systems.
Another major change the FAA approved was to allow the college to teach both aircraft and engine electrical systems as a single class. Previously, many of the students were having trouble understanding the subtle differences between the two types of systems. The new method allows the instructors to highlight key similarities and differences and clear up possible points of confusion.
In order to comply with the FAA’s heightened expectations, students at Redstone College are required to spend a great deal of time in the lab, as well as in lecture. In fact, the school’s website notes that students can expect to spend about 50 percent of their class time in a lab environment. To make this lab time as productive and educational as possible Redstone added 20 micrometers and two additional rotating cut-away aircraft reciprocating engines, doubling the total number to four.
Micrometers are a crucial part of the careful, exact dimensional checks aircraft technicians make every day. It is important for students to have a great deal of experience and expertise using the various micrometers they need on the job, and acquiring the new micrometers has certainly helped students gain this experience. The rotating cut-away aircraft reciprocating engines, meanwhile, give students a chance to get a holistic look at the operation of engines. They can examine the systems at a slower speed, helping them to visualize the theories they have studied. The goal, of course, is for students to really internalize the concepts, and students at Redstone who have used the cut-away engines as part of their studies often remark, “Now I get it!”
One of the hallmarks of institutions of higher learning is that they are always seeking to improve the quality of the educational experience their students receive, particularly in regard to how well they prepare their students for future careers. Redstone takes advantage of its yearly Program Action Committees (PACs), in which the school interacts with representatives within the industry to learn about trends and avoid possible pitfalls and shortcomings.
A recent example involves representatives from Lockheed Martin, who alerted Redstone that several of its Advanced Electronics Technology students had failed to pass the entry test to get hired at their Marietta, Georgia, facility. In response, the Dean and the Program Chair spent two days visiting the company’s facility, where they looked for potential issues that might hinder Redstone students from having success. When they returned, they recommended adjustments to the curriculum and the purchase of additional electronic wiring crimpers. The changes were implemented, and a special wiring class was offered free of charge on the weekends to students who had already completed the wiring portion of the curriculum.
One of the keys to Redstone’s improvements is that it has attempted to clarify its students’ understanding of theory and connect it to practice, while simultaneously seeking to look down the road at how today’s education affects future performance. These improvements are helping to ensure that students are successful in their career environments.
–Philip J. Reed, Redstone College