Rocketing to the top

Oct 3, 2008

Unlike other institutions, Kettering University's new Aerospace Engineering concentration provides a singular experience by offering students opportunities to utilize the latest technology and software employed by the propulsion and aerodynamics industry.

Rocket scientist. Humorous phrase. Most times people use it to describe individuals who display unintelligent behavior or tendencies. How many times have we heard someone say when describing another, “He ain’t no rocket scientist?”

But at Kettering University, the meaning of this phrase is powerful, thanks to a new Mechanical Engineering concentration.

Kettering’s new Aerospace Engineering specialty trains engineers in unique areas of propulsion and aerodynamics using technological resources and software that are usually unavailable at other institutions for undergraduate students. Some of these tools include, but are not limited to, the Joint Army NASA Navy Air Force standard methodologies such as: Thermal Equilibrium Program (TEP) for the study of equilibrium combustions of fuels; Solid Performance Program (SPP) for solid rocket motor propulsion, performance and grain design studies; Two-Dimensional Kinetics (TDK) for liquid rocket engine performance analysis; Viscous Interaction Performance Program (VIPER) for liquid and solid rocket engines; and Liquid Thrust Chamber Performance (LTCP), which is a two-dimensional/Axisymmetric Navier-Stokes solver for liquid rocket engine performance.

Dr. Homayun Navaz, professor of Mechanical Engineering (ME) at Kettering, will oversee the program. “Currently, we offer the classes associated with this concentration and have done so for some time,” he said. Navaz also said that Dr. Michael Harris, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Kettering, is very supportive of the program and had encouraged the Mechanical Engineering Dept. to develop the specialty and make a formal announcement to help draw increased attention to the offering.

“This Aerospace Engineering concentration is stronger than those at other institutions because we train our students to use the programs and technologies that organizations like NASA, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc. and other rocket propulsion communities use today,” he said.

“We can train our engineering students in the classroom using these resources, which makes them more compatible with aerospace propulsion community needs. With a thorough marketing strategy, we can also increase their potential for co-op employment at aerospace industries,” he added.

For Navaz, officially designating Aerospace Engineering as a concentration is of particularly significance. In the 1980s and 1990s before joining Kettering University, he co-authored many of the current JANNAF standard methodologies and programs used today by NASA, the military and other rocket manufacturers. His direct expertise and experience, combined with the availability of these technological resources that other ME faculty also use when teaching core courses in this concentration, give students an advantage no other institution can provide. 

According to Navaz, the students who have already participated in many of the required courses for this concentration enjoyed the experience. “I think they find the work to be highly relative, since we’re using production software and programs in use by defense contractors and NASA,” Navaz said.

He also said that the curriculum “aligns very well with this growing area of technology and Kettering is positioned well to offer this concentration, since we have an exceptional cooperative education partnership with more than 600 companies throughout the world,” he said. “Most importantly, this concentration creates more flexibility in academic programming for students and gives them another choice when pursuing their engineering degrees,” he added.

This is of particularly importance, based on results of an “Aviation Week” workforce study published in the Aug. 8, 2008 edition. According to this study, in the past 10 years U.S. aerospace, defense and government leaders have expressed concern about impending retirements of engineers and scientists and the decreasing number of college enrollments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. For Kettering University officials, this program helps respond to the national need to encourage more students to consider STEM programs and aeronautical engineering as a career field, and represents Kettering’s continuing evolution.

“Adding the concentration in Aerospace Engineering is part of our ongoing intentional efforts to sustain and enhance Kettering University’s programs to be relevant and current,” said Dr. Michael Harris, Kettering’s vice president for Academic Affairs and provost. “The institution continues to emphasize a curriculum that is responsive to the economic needs of the region, nation and the world. We put much effort and resources in aligning our academic programs to assure a competitive edge for our students,” he added.  

This program is primarily aimed at entering freshmen and sophomore students with the first course offering to occur in the summer of 2009. To learn more about the Aerospace Engineering concentration, contact Dr. Homayun Navaz via email at, or visit the Kettering University Mechanical Engineering program.

Written by Gary J. Erwin