Undergraduate Handbook

Chair's Letter

Welcome to the University of Kansas and the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

Most likely, you have entered our program because of your fascination with things that fly - aircraft, spacecraft, balloons, etc. You share this fascination with all the department faculty and alumni. Some of you might be interested in the problems associated with flight in the atmosphere (Aeronautics). Others will be interested in problems associated with operation in space (Astronautics). The Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering will prepare you for a career in either path. The program is designed to provide you with the basic understanding of the physical world, the mathematics needed to model and analyze these problems, as well as the specific technology that applies these ideas and principles to aerospace vehicles and systems.

Because you are preparing for a 40-year career and no one can imagine what new challenges and opportunities you will face, this program must emphasize the concepts and methods that will always be important, i.e. the laws of nature and mathematical methods. Unfortunately, it is impossible to learn in four years all you will need during your career. You should consider this program as the start of a lifelong experience of education and discovery. The faculty goal is to help you develop the ability and confidence to build on these basic principles to learn what is needed to be successful in the Aerospace Industry.

When you have completed the program and earned your BS, you will be able to enter industry, government organizations including NASA, a branch of the military or continue your education in graduate programs. The purpose of this handbook is to clearly identify the resources, the academic program, the graduation requirements, and the department rules and procedures that define the Aerospace Engineering Program. A similar handbook is available which defines all the graduate programs offered by the department. If you have a question about the program, first look in this handbook. If this does not provide a satisfactory answer, contact your advisor or see me.

Again, welcome.

Section 1: Department Overview

1.1 Department History

The Kansas Board of Regents approved the Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering degree in 1941. Since the first graduating class in 1944, the department has graduated over 1000 students. The BS in Aerospace Engineering has been continuously accredited by the Engineering Council for Professional Development and the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, Inc. The review by the Accreditation Board assures the quality of the program. The department also offers graduate programs at both the Master and Doctoral levels. The department Advisory Board, made-up of representatives from industry, academia, and the government, annually reviews the department programs. This review assures that graduates of our programs meet the needs of the profession.


1.2 General Description of BS Program

The focus of the BS program in Aerospace Engineering is the design of aerospace vehicles and components. This is accomplished in a four-year academic program. The 1st year consists of basic sciences, mathematics, and communication courses. These courses form the key foundation for the rest of the program. In addition, you will take an Introduction to Aerospace Engineering course that will give you an overview of the BS program. In the second year, you will continue to take basic mathematics and science as well as engineering science courses. The engineering science courses apply the principles you have mastered in the basic sciences and mathematics to the solution of engineering problems. In the third year, you learn the unique nature of aerospace problems. These courses cover the major disciplines within Aerospace Engineering - fluid mechanics and aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, and flight dynamics. You will also have courses in complementary topics including computer graphics and instrumentation. In your fourth year, you have the opportunity to see how all the individual specialized technologies are used to design a vehicle. Throughout the program, you have the opportunity to take elective courses from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. These are referred to as KU Core electives. You will take Aerospace Colloquium for eight semesters in the program. This course is a seminar series in which practicing engineers from industry or government organizations present lectures based upon their experiences, which give you a feel for the Aerospace Engineering profession.


1.3 Aerospace Engineering Faculty

Emily Arnold, Associate Professor (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

Ronald Barrett-Gonzalez, Professor (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

Brina Blinzler, Assistant Professor of Practice (Ph.D., The University of Akron, Ed.D. Chalmers University of Technology)

Haiyang Chao, Assistant Professor (Ph.D., Utah State University)

Mark Ewing, Associate Professor (Ph.D., Ohio State University)

Richard Hale, Professor, C.E. and M.J. Spahr Professor and Chair (Ph.D., Iowa State University)

Cheng Huang, Assistant Professor, (Ph.D., Purdue University)

Brian Kaplinger, Assistant Professor, (Ph.D., Iowa State University)

Shawn Keshmiri, Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr Professor, (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

Craig McLaughlin, Associate Professor (Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder) 

Veera Sajjanapu, Assistant Professor of Practice (Ph.D., Iowa State University)

Ray Taghavi, Professor and Associate Chairperson (Ph.D., University of Kansas)

ZJ Wang, Spahr Professor (Ph.D., University of Glasgow) 


1.4 Advising System

The school of Engineering has a pool of advisors dedicated to Engineering students. All students are assigned an advisor when they join the department. In addition, faculty serve as mentors to individual students in the field of study. The Degree Progress Report form that is accessible via the JayhawkGPS Portal documents student progress. Each student will see their advisor at least once a semester during pre-enrollment for the following semester. Advisors are available for consultation on any topic related to the student’s activities at KU. In particular, students are encouraged to see their advisor as soon as a problem or concern is identified, or in instances of physical or mental unwellness. This assures that all the student services provided by the university (e.g. career counseling, tutoring, and study workshops) are utilized as needed during the student’s career at KU. If for any reason a student cannot reach their advisor, the student can always make an appointment with the Department Chair.


1.5 Scholarships

All first-time, domestic students applying for admission to the School of Engineering will be considered for scholarships if they apply to the School of Engineering by November 1.


1.6 Cooperative Programs

Since most Aerospace Engineering courses are taught only once each academic year, it has not been possible to setup standard cooperative programs, i.e. alternate semesters of academic course work and work periods. If a student were to miss a semester in the junior or senior year at least one semester would be added to their program in addition to the time lost during the work assignment. Students interested in Cooperative Programs should talk to their advisor as soon as possible. Internships in summer and/or the long winter break are certainly viable and are encouraged.

1.7 Employment Opportunities and Placement Services

Aerospace Engineers are employed by a wide range of industries and organizations. Typical examples are:

Aircraft and Spacecraft Manufacturers 

Aircraft and Spacecraft Operators 

Research Labs: NASA, Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Defense 

Armed Forces: U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard 

Aerospace Component Manufacturers 

Automobile Manufacturers  


Engineering Consulting Companies

Employment opportunities in engineering, in general (but in Aerospace Engineering in particular), are cyclic. It is a fact, however, that even in poor times, unemployment among engineers is, typically, the lowest of all occupations. This is because an engineer is trained to solve problems (almost any type of problem) - in a logical fashion. This capability is desired by industry and government regardless of the type of engineering degree a person has. For that reason, engineers of all types find it easy to shift into jobs not requiring engineering backgrounds at all, if they so desire. 

Students seeking permanent, as well as summer jobs, are encouraged to use the Engineering Career Center (ECC) in room 1410 LEEP2. The ECC provides individual career counseling and conducts career workshops to help prepare students for interviewing and resume preparation.  They also assist students in setting up appointments with companies and other organizations that conduct on campus interviews. 


1.8 Faculty and Student Responsibilities 

At the start of a university career students quickly discover that life in college is very different from life in high school. Students at a college or university are rightly treated as adults. Much of what you do will be your responsibility. The faculty and staff will not monitor your progress or performance. They will provide any assistance you need but generally, you will have to request help. You will prosper or fail due to your own actions. To assist you in this new environment, a clear definition of your responsibilities and those responsibilities of the faculty is useful. 

Consider first the responsibilities of the faculty. Each professor may use a different set of guidelines or rules in running a class. It is the faculty’s responsibility to define the rules to be used in terms of attendance, grading policy, assignments, and class schedule. If a faculty member does not provide this information or if the rules or procedures are unclear, it is recommended the student discuss this with the faculty member. 

Next, consider the student’s responsibilities. Once the faculty defines the course requirements, it is the student’s responsibility to follow the guidelines including attending lectures and laboratories on time, submitting assignments on time, and taking all examinations. If for any reason, the student will not be able to attend class or take a test it is expected that the student notifies the professor before the absence. Although there is no single set of rules for handling such situations, each faculty member has a set of rules. It is also the student’s responsibility to obtain the information and course material presented when the student failed to attend a lecture. This includes changes in assignments or test dates. Your professor may be willing to provide this information if the absence had prior approval or if it involved an emergency.

Each student is expected to use their initiative in utilizing the university libraries and related material available in other facilities as needed. There are workshops and special lectures available to show students how to use the extensive resources provided by the university and it is the student’s responsibility to seek help. 


Section 2: Admission

2.1 Admission Directly from High School

Students may enter the Department of Aerospace Engineering as freshmen, but all admissions (both in state and out-of-state), are on a selective basis. General requirements for admission to the University are included under Admission in the General Information section of the Undergraduate catalog. Students from foreign institutions are not accepted directly into the school but may apply for transfer after at least one semester in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or in some other U.S. institution. 

To be considered for admission to the Department of Aerospace Engineering, all applicants must meet or exceed minimum academic standards. Admission is on a competitive basis following a review of an individual’s achievements considering factors such as high school record, class standing, scores on national tests, advisor recommendation, and trend of grades. High school transcripts are required. 

Minimum Academic Standards for Admission: 

To be considered for admission to the Department of Aerospace Engineering, beginning first-year students must 

  • Must be admissible to the University of Kansas by assured admissions or individual review AND
  • Have a 3.0+ high school GPA AND
  • Demonstrate mathematics preparedness by:
    • Obtaining a mathematics ACT score of 22+ (or math SAT score of 540+), OR
    • Achieving a ‘B’ or better in ‘college algebra’ or a more advanced mathematics course, OR
    • Achieving a ‘C’ or better in a high school calculus course; OR
    • Earning credit via IB or AP credit for the above-mentioned courses in accordance with KU placement credit requirements; OR
    • Achieving at minimum a qualifying score for MATH 104 on the ALEKS mathematics placement exam.

Important: Simply meeting these requirements will not guarantee admission to the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Students who perform beyond these minimums will have a better probability of being admitted. 


2.2 Admission as a Transfer Student

Students who wish to transfer into the BS in Aerospace Engineering program from other institutions are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Transfer students must

  • Be admissible to KU AND
  • Earn a cumulative college transferable grade-point average of 2.5+ AND
  • Earn a "C" or better in MATH 125 (Calculus I, or its direct equivalent) AND
  • Earn grades of "C" or better in math, science, and engineering applicable to the engineering degree.

have a college grade-point average of 2.5 or higher to be considered. Students must submit transcripts or proof of competence in calculus (grade of C or higher). 

Transfer credits for all courses are evaluated by the Office of Admissions. Transfer credits will be further reviewed at the time of initial advising by the Aerospace Engineering Department.  Only courses in which a grade of C or better was obtained will be granted transfer credit. Courses graded Pass/Fail will not be granted transfer credit. No upper-level engineering credits from non-ABET-accredited engineering programs are acceptable as transfer credit for engineering programs. All transfer students must take their last 30 hours of credits while enrolled in the KU School of Engineering to be eligible to graduate from the University of Kansas. 

Students currently enrolled in another school at the University of Kansas who wish to transfer to the department of Aerospace Engineering must fill out a Change of School form. Students who are currently enrolled at KU, needs to meet the following:

  • Earn a 2.5+ KU GPA
  • Earn a C or better in MATH 125 or its direct equivalent
  • Earn a C or better in all math, science, and engineering courses

Students within the School of Engineering that would like to transfer to the department of Aerospace Engineering must fill out a Change of Major form. The student must then submit the form to the School of Engineering Student Success Suite in 1415 LEEP2. 


Section 3: Graduation Requirements

3.1 General Requirements

To graduate with the Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering the student must complete a published curriculum in effect at the time of entry or beyond. This curriculum consists of a distribution of required courses in English, mathematics, basic sciences, engineering sciences, and Aerospace Engineering. In addition to these required courses, each candidate must take approved Technical Electives and approved KU Core electives. The student must complete the required courses with at least a 2.0 grade point average in all courses taken at KU as well as at least a 2.0 grade point average in all engineering courses taken at KU. The student must also take at least 30 hours of credit while enrolled in the KU School of Engineering. 

Note: The curriculum is constantly under review by the faculty and may change during a four-year period. For this reason, a student can select any published curriculum in effect from the time of their entry in the program to the program in effect at the time of graduation. The student should notify their advisor which program is to be used and all the requirements listed in this published program must be satisfied. 


3.2 Specific Requirements for BS Degree in Aerospace Engineering

The program requirements for students entering the program in Fall 2022 and later are detailed in Required Courses. Rigid prerequisites exist for each course. This is to ensure that students are adequately prepared to take a specific course. Detailed descriptions of required courses can be found in the University’s undergraduate catalog. 

Aerospace 4 Year Curriculum presents the recommended 4-year sequence of courses. This is the recommended sequence for students who are prepared to enter the program directly, and who are full-time students without other time-consuming activities, e.g. part-time work, ROTC, intercollegiate sports, band, or other student activities. Many students who are involved in nonacademic, time-consuming activities take more than 4 years to graduate. A typical 5-year sequence of courses is also given as a guide. Students who believe they may plan to take more than 4 years are strongly advised to discuss this with their advisor or the Department Chair. Note that many courses may be taken in the summer at either KU or other universities and junior colleges. 

A total of 129 credit hours is typical for the B.S. Degree in Aerospace Engineering as shown in Required Courses.

3.3 Requirements for Enrollment in Junior Level Aerospace Courses

Enrollment in junior-level aerospace courses is limited to students who have received grades of C- or higher in all first- and second-year courses in mathematics, physics, ME 212, CE 260, CE 310, AE 211, AE 245, AE 345, and AE 445. 


3.4 Fall Graduation

For students who would be eligible to graduate after 4 ½ years except that the second design course has not been completed, it is possible to substitute for the second design course, i.e., AE 522 or AE 523 or AE 524, in the fall semester. The substitution must not only be four hours but also must have four hours of design activity equivalent to the second design course. The recommended substitution is AE 721 - Aircraft Design Laboratory I. Both the student’s advisor and the department Chair must approve any other substitution. Students who plan to take these options and graduate in December are urged to discuss this with their advisor as soon as possible.


3.5 Credit/No Credit and Correspondence Courses 

The department does not permit the use of any Credit/No Credit or correspondence courses to fulfill degree requirements.  This applies to courses taken at KU or at other institutions. The only exceptions are AE 241, 242, and 441 in special circumstances. 


3.6 Dual Degrees

Some students, because of a broad interest or specific career plan, elect to pursue two bachelor’s degrees simultaneously. In such cases, the student must satisfy the requirements of both degrees. This must also involve an additional 30 hours of credit beyond the first degree. Because of the desire to minimize the time and effort of the student and due to the complexities involved, it is strongly recommended the student make their plans known to their advisor. In addition, the student should coordinate their program with an advisor from the second department. 


3.7 Co-Enrollment in the BS and Graduate Programs

Often, students in the last semester of their BS program will not have a full course load. These students can enroll in up to 6 hours of graduate courses that will count toward the Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering Degree (here or at most other accredited Universities). To be co-enrolled, the student must apply and be accepted in the graduate program. In addition, the student must announce to both their advisor and the Department administrative assistant which courses are to be used to complete the requirements for the BS and which courses should be counted toward the Master of Science degree.


3.8 Graduating with Departmental Honors

In order to graduate from the Aerospace Engineering program with honors, students must have a KU GPA of 3.5 or higher and take at least one department honors course. Department honors courses include AE 546, AE 573, AE 506, AE 509, AE 552, and AE 593. 


Section 4: KU Core

4.1 Purpose

The KU Core establishes six educational goals for all undergraduates at the University of Kansas. The KU Core is designed to yield fundamental skills, build a broad background of knowledge, generate capacities and opportunities for blending and creating ideas, strengthen an appreciation of cultural and global diversity, and cultivate ethical integrity. 

The KU Core is not a prescribed set of courses that students must take. Hundreds of courses and experiences have been approved as part of the KU Core. Students can select the courses or experiences that match their interests and areas of study. This selection allows each student to create a unique undergraduate experience.

4.2 Fulfilling the KU Core

Goal 1, Outcome 1, Critical Thinking: PHSX 210 

Goal 1, Outcome 2, Quantitative Literacy: MATH 125 

Goal 2, Outcome 1, Written Communications: Meet via KU Core requirements 

Goal 2, Outcome 2, Oral Communications: AE 522, 523, 524, or 721, or 722

Goal 3, Outcome 1, Arts and Humanities: Meet via KU Core requirements 

Goal 3, Outcome 2, Natural Science: CHEM 150 or CHEM 130 

Goal 3, Outcome 3, Social Sciences: ECON 104, 142, or 144 

Goal 4, Outcome 1, Diversity in the United States: Meet via KU Core requirements  

Goal 4, Outcome 2, Global Awareness: Meet via KU Core requirements 

Goal 5, Outcome 1, Ethics and Social Responsibility: AE 520 or AE 521

Goal 6, Outcome 1, Capstone: AE 521 AND 522, 523, 524, 721 

Details of the KU Core can be found at kucore.ku.edu. Some required courses in the AE curriculum satisfy a KU Core goal and/or outcome. For these courses, the goal/outcome code is given in parentheses after the course on the pages above. Where required courses do NOT specifically satisfy KU Core goals (Goals 2.1, 3H, and 4) students must choose from a list of several means to satisfy the required goals. Transfer students who may not be able to complete the sequences for Goals 2.2 and 5 should talk to their advisor about alternate ways to fulfill those Core goals. 

Section 5: Technical Electives

5.1 Purpose

The purpose of the Technical Elective courses is to allow the student to select advanced courses in one or more areas that are of special interest. Each student must take at least 6 hours of Technical Electives, of which a minimum of 3 hours must be Aerospace Engineering courses. The satisfaction of this requirement can be accomplished by several methods as listed below. 


5.2 Suggested Technical Electives

Technical Electives are selected from 500-level and above aerospace engineering courses, 600-level and above courses from other engineering departments, or 500-level and above math courses.  At least one course must be a 700-level aerospace course or AE 592 or AE 593.


5.3 Focus Area

The department recognizes, however, that some students would like to focus their technical electives on one aspect of aerospace engineering. To help students select their technical electives, the department has compiled lists of appropriate courses that form focus areas. Recommended Focus Area Courses contains recommended courses for focus areas in Aerodynamics, Propulsion, Structures, Flight Dynamics and Control, Vehicle Design, Astronautics, and Manufacturing. It is also possible for a student, working with an advisor, to create other focus areas. 


5.4 Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)

A student enrolled in one of the ROTC programs can receive 3 hours of Technical Electives credit if the ROTC program is completed. If the student does not complete the ROTC program, no Technical Elective credits are awarded.


Section 6: Department Research and Facilities

6.1 Introduction

The School of Engineering and the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas have extensive facilities to support our undergraduate and graduate education and research missions. 

All faculty members are active in funded and unfunded research. If a student is interested in becoming involved in research they should contact the appropriate faculty member. Undergraduate students can receive academic credit for research performed by enrollment in AE 592, Special Projects in Aerospace Engineering. Faculty areas of research may be found at https://ae.ku.edu/research-areas


6.2 Research Facilities

Each student will have the opportunity to work with a broad range of experimental equipment as well as industry-standard computational and design software, including ANSYS FLUENT for Computational Fluid Dynamics, ASK Satellite Toolkit for orbital analysis, MSC NASTRAN/PATRAN for structural analysis, Siemens NX for detailed design, and DARCorp AAA for preliminary aircraft design.  Select research and teaching facilities are described in https://ae.ku.edu/facilities.