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Why Do Jets Fly so High? Intro to Thrust and Jet Engine Design
Updated: 10/6/2020 3:05 PM by Becky Benishek
This module explores the concept of thrust and the relevant equations for jet engines in an introductory course about “flight”. When implemented at the University of Dayton, the “Introduction to Flight” course had 28 students in their sophomore and junior level studying Mechanical Engineering. Each assignment in this class includes EML objectives. The module took 2.5 weeks (5 classes each 1 hour and 15 minutes) to be complete where the students explored the question, “Why do jets fly so high?” and big picture view of “thrust” and jet engine design.

This module involved the 3C’s by guiding students through a process of inquiry, exploration and discovery. In classroom, students were exposed to the fundamental equation of thrust derived from conservation of mass and momentum. Then, the students were asked to find opportunities to increase thrust from an engine by influencing parameters in the thrust equation. The open ended question encourages students to make connections between theory and practice. After understanding the equation, students discuss opportunities for improvement and societal impact. This module would work well for anyone teaching flight, jet engines, or propulsion.
Learning Objectives
- The nominal thrust of a large modern commercial jet engine, and the approximate cost, lifetime, and fuel consumption
- How components (inlet, diffuser, compressor, combustion chamber, turbine, and nozzle) are interconnected and contribute to thrust
- Why cruising altitude is an important parameter for optimizing efficiency
- An understanding of engines to devise a laboratory experiment, measuring thrust of a simple electric fan with force sensors
- Which type of jet engine produces greater thrust/cost
- Opportunities to increase thrust with an assessment of both feasibility and viability
Instructor Tips
- A collaborative space encourages collaboration and participation in group discussions
- More hands-on activities would help students make connections with day-to-day flight
- Have multiple assessments spread throughout the module rather than at the end
  • Demonstrate constant curiosity about our changing world
  • Integrate information from many sources to gain insight
  • Assess and manage risk
Creating Value
  • Identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value
  • Identify Opportunity
  • Evaluate Tech Feasibility, Customer Value, Societal Benefits & Economic Viability
  • Communicate Societal Benefits
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
This includes an overview of the course, reflections, and suggested improvements. The KEENzine article includes links to the KEEN framework.
Title Type Ext Date Size
Introduction and Reflections.docx Instructor Notes .docx 12/18/2017 3.8 MB
KEENzine Article-Links to KEEN Framework Other 10/6/2020 -
This folder includes the syllabus and learning objectives.
Title Type Ext Date Size
Introduction to Flight Syllabus F17.docx Syllabus .docx 12/18/2017 716.8 KB
Learning Outcomes.docx Other .docx 12/18/2017 7 KB
This folder includes the presentation and handout for the module.
Title Type Ext Date Size
Presentation for Why Jets Fly so High.pptx Presentation .pptx 12/18/2017 136.4 MB
Thrust Equation Worksheet.docx Assessment / Rubric .docx 12/18/2017 39.5 KB
This folder includes redacted student work. Each redaction includes an assessment.
Title Type Ext Date Size
Student 1 Redaction.docx Student Artifact / Example .docx 12/18/2017 11.8 MB
Student 1 Assessment.xlsx Student Artifact / Example .xlsx 12/18/2017 10.2 KB
Student 2 Redaction.docx Student Artifact / Example .docx 12/18/2017 609.3 KB
Student 2 Assessment.xlsx Student Artifact / Example .xlsx 12/18/2017 10.3 KB
This folder has pictures and videos from the class.
Title Type Ext Date Size
classroom environment.JPG Other .jpg 12/18/2017 10.7 MB
student discussion.JPG Other .jpg 12/18/2017 10.5 MB
students working with model jet.JPG Other .jpg 12/18/2017 2.1 MB
students working.JPG Other .jpg 12/18/2017 2.3 MB
team collaboration.JPG Other .jpg 12/18/2017 1.8 MB
students working (2).JPG Other .jpg 12/18/2017 4.1 MB
testing (2).mp4 Video .mp4 1/30/2018 3.3 MB
testing.mp4 Video .mp4 1/30/2018 2.3 MB