My Favorite Engineering Class at USC This Semester: AME 404, Computational Solutions to Engineering Problems

Alex-2016 Viterbi Class Leave a Comment

Last semester, I took my first real programming class at USC, AME 150: Introduction to Computational Methods. Over the course of the class, I learned the Matlab programming language through basic simulations, such as projectile motion. I was a master of for loops, function files, and fprintf.

Also, during the spring 2013 semester, I enrolled in Math 245: Mathematics of Physics and Engineering I. After completing calculus III in the previous semester, I dove into differential equations, modeling first-order and linear second-order differential equations. Much of the work involved modeling real life situations in math, particularly fluid flow.

This semester, I am taking AME 404: Computational Solutions to Engineering Problems. And I really like it. AME 404 is a combination of AME 150 and Math 245; essentially, AME 404 involves the modeling of differential equations in Matlab. So far, I have modeled fluid flow rate in a tank, pendulum motion, and airplane longitudinal dynamics. Being an astronautical engineer, the airplane longitudinal dynamics problem was right up my alley. Using differential equations, I first modeled the airplane’s axial velocity, angle of attack, pitch angle, and pitch rate. I continued on to model these changing values over time, both with inference from the airplane’s elevator and without. By plotting these changes over time, I could see, through numbers, how an airplane moved through space, depending upon different initial conditions concerning the airplane’s construction. In the future, I expect to do similar modeling for rocket motion, particularly within propulsion. Through Matlab, I will be able to map the effect of final and initial propulsion mass upon rocket thrust. AME 404 has taught me the engineering applications of programming, and I am excited to use these applications in astronautical engineering research.

Aside from the pure learning value of the course, I enjoy going to AME 404 for the classroom atmosphere. The professor, Tak Sakai, is very easy going and is always willing to stay after class to answer questions. Throughout the class, Tak will poke fun at the student workers recording the class, having them change the camera angles back and forth from his laptop to his notepad. Outside of Tak, the other students in the course have made AME 404 a collaborative, exciting experience. Two other Viterbi Student Ambassadors, Markus and Gavin, are in the class with me, and I often do the homework assignments with a member of my research team, Daniel. As one of the younger members of the class, I have been lucky enough to work with the seniors and juniors enrolled in the course, many of whom have already taken senior-level engineering courses and have been willing to help me learn the ropes of USC’s tougher engineering courses. AME 404 has been my favorite engineering class this semester, and I cannot wait to use the skills I learn through this class in my lunar lander research and other pursuits!

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