It’s been called one of the most significant undertakings in Iowa State University history. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to move all courses online in the spring of 2020, as well as the continuation of the pandemic through summer and fall, forced a major rethinking of how all departments would continue to deliver their curriculum to students. The Department of Aerospace Engineering was no different.
Delivery of university coursework resulted in a “hybrid” plan of both in-person and online teaching by the onset of the fall 2020 semester, and a significant amount of ongoing work was required over the spring, summer and fall of 2020 to implement the details of that plan. Associate professor Anupam Sharma was asked to coordinate curriculum planning for aerospace engineering and to act as liaison with the College of Engineering. Some of the many tasks that Dr. Sharma oversaw included:
- Working with the Vance and Arlene Coffman Endowed Department Chair Alric Rothmayer and academic advisor Nicole (Nikki) Gupta to set teaching assignments and teaching modes, section sizes, and classrooms to accommodate social distancing requirements for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.
- Organizing in-person and online tutorials and offering one-on-one help to faculty members to assist them with online teaching (online delivery systems, software for online recording and editing, annotation and hand-written notes using digital writing pads, etc.).
- Working with department IT coordinator Jim Wellman to purchase writing tablets for each faculty member to improve the quality of online instruction and interaction between faculty and students.
- Working with Wellman and Rothmayer to secure funds from the College of Engineering to upgrade three department classrooms to enhance lecture-capture capabilities.
Dr. Sharma worked tirelessly along with Arlene Grebasch, Benson and Rothmayer on the department’s planning response to COVID-19 over the spring, summer and fall, and played a large role in the successful transition to fall semester.
The department was also faced with the task of tearing down and rebuilding the main office to meet social distancing guidelines as well as completely reorganizing and sometimes completely rebuilding department classrooms, teaching labs and conference spaces for the fall semester. The department lab staff (Benson, Carolyn Riedel and Andrew Jordan) performed a monumental task over the summer to ready all of the labs, classrooms and the rest of the building for the fall semester.
The teaching lab faculty also pitched in throughout the summer to set lab policies to handle the pandemic, as well as reorganize and rebuild the various labs. The department especially thanks the following teaching lab leaders for the large amount of time and effort they devoted to the department: Riedel (composites lab), Shahram Pouya (aerodynamics & propulsion lab), Chien-Ping (Thomas) Chiou (EM strength of materials lab and AERE structures lab), Robert Martin (flight simulation lab), Travis Grager (aeronautics design lab), and Tomas Gonzales-Torres (astronautics design lab); and also extends a special thanks to Vance and Arlene Coffman and all donors whose support has helped the department navigate these unprecedented challenges.