Congratulations to Shamsheer Chauhan on his honorable mention for the College of Engineering Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding GSIs. The Towner Prize is for GSIs who embody qualities of creativity, innovation, excellence in teaching, and remarkable dedication to student success. Since 2016, Chauhan exemplifies these qualities as a GSI for AERO 481 – Aircraft Design.
Chauhan, a 2014 mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Waterloo has been a Ph.D. student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering since 2015. He works in the Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Laboratory under the advisement of Aerospace Engineering Professor Joaquim Martins and is currently conducting research on trajectory optimization for electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
Before coming to the University of Michigan, Chauhan has had six internships, among those were working as a stress analyst for Bombardier Aerospace in Montreal and as a design engineer for Apple in Cupertino. He cites these experiences as giving him a better perspective on academics, enabling him to see gaps in traditional coursework. Inspired by the works of Richard Feynman and Kelly Johnson among others, Chauhan took on his position with dedication and a focus on prioritizing learning with a functional point of view in mind.
In such an open-ended course as aircraft design, where the project also changes every year, Chauhan was challenged to continuously learn along with the students while still supporting their learning. He used this platform to look at a lot of aspects rigorously, challenging assumptions and furthering his education to try and implement changes that would benefit his students.
Chauhan developed multiple tools to help AERO 481 students design their aircraft. In addition to improving the class notes, he reduced software barriers to encourage detailed trade studies and developing intuition on wing aerodynamics. A major development Chauhan implemented was structural sizing code for OpenAeroStruct, an open-source software developed by members of the Multidisciplinary Design Optimization Laboratory. This software now allows students to carry out both preliminary aerodynamic as well as structural sizing for aircraft wings, something that few aircraft design courses can claim to teach. Students can now approach their design from a tightly-coupled multidisciplinary view and experiment with various design considerations. This allows students to to develop both qualitative and quantitative intuition on aspects of wing design that they would not otherwise.
From his depth of experiences, Chauhan has a lot of advice to share with both students and GSIs. He advises students to focus on the depth of learning, i.e. learning a few things but learning them well. He emphasized the need to prioritize first principles so that you can understand the underlying mechanisms and limitations of more advanced concepts. From there, taking what you learn and imaging the consequences or making connections with prior observations helps cement these concepts as useful engineering tools. For GSIs, he asks them to view their own education critically so they can try to help students fill gaps in their education.