Experiential learning takes aviation students to new heights

Posted: December 28, 2021
Students sitting at tables in a square and discussing among themselves
Students in Aviation 3200 discuss policy and regulations during their mock government activity, while Lecturer Brian Strzempkowski (standing, bottom right photo) gives input.

Mock crash investigations and simulated executive mandates were highlights of experiential learning activities in the Center for Aviation Studies this semester. Students benefited from practical learning experiences aimed at preparing them for future careers in the aviation industry.

Two classes with significant experiential learning components are Aviation 3200: Aviation Regulations and Policy, and Aviation 3300: Aviation Human Factors and Safety. Learning objectives focus on process, adherence to regulations and navigating partnerships across the industry for aircraft crash investigations and aviation law, respectively.

“The Center for Aviation Studies is really excited to add more experiential learning to our classes,” shared Assistant Director of Academics and Program Assessment Shannon McLoughlin Morrison. “The opportunity for a more ‘hands on’ approach is beneficial to our students and their learning.”

Students in Aviation 3200, taught by the center’s assistant director, Brian Strzempkowski, participated in a multiweek mock government activity. They were assigned roles, including president, legislative members, national organizations, lobbyists and company CEOs. The interactive activity was based on two mock aircraft crashes, and students were tasked with making regulations to mitigate future incidents. During the mock deliberations, the class was joined by students from Lecturer Adam Beckman’s Aviation 2200: Aviation Organization Analysis and Writing, who played the role of reporters and constituents.

Students gather around mock crash sites outdoors while listening to the class instructor talk
Aviation 3300 students met at Don Scott Field to review mock crash sites. Instructor Shawn Pruchnicki (bottom right photo) described evidence collection.

“It is always a surprise how this activity will unfold because the students drive it through critical thinking and creativity,” said Strzempkowski. “I set the guidelines for the activity, but it’s really up to them to work together and solve the problem. It always turns out to model the real government much more realistically than I could ever imagine. It gives the students a chance to experience how hard it is to compromise when there are competing policies on the table.”

Meanwhile, students in the crash investigation class put newly acquired knowledge to the test at a mock crash site at The Ohio State University Airport. Using purchased wreckage, students worked individually to determine the cause of the crash while identifying and deciphering related details. As the culmination reports were submitted by each student citing recommendations for steps that could be taken to help avoid future crashes of similar magnitude.

Taught by Assistant Professor Shawn Pruchnicki, industry expert in human performance, the class focused not only on the physical components related to the mock crash, but also the roles of federal agencies and lawmakers in approaching aircraft failures.

Students also had the opportunity to view multiple other purchased wreckage crash sites staged at the airport, where Pruchnicki led interactive discussions and demonstrations to facilitate students’ understanding of the role of aircraft component design in crash endurance.

"Our accident investigation course offers our students a unique opportunity to use their aviation knowledge and apply newly learned scientific skills on real aircraft wreckage," he commented.

Students interested in these classes or any of the aviation degrees should discuss opportunities with their academic advisors.

by Holly Henley, communications specialist, henley.53@osu.edu