Passion for Teaching Drives Professor to Focus on Most Effective Ways

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Brian Argrow

Aerospace Engineering Sciences
For Professor Brian Argrow, being an aerospace engineer is about combining the excitement of science with the knowledge and skills to take a design project from conception to completion.  A passion for teaching drives him to implement the most effective ways to teach and to expand experiential opportunities for students.

Argrow is the Look Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, and co-founder and director of the Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV), a multidisciplinary center focused on technologies and applications of unmanned vehicle systems. He's also served as associate dean for education for the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

He also is a member of the President’s Teaching Scholars, a group of CU faculty chosen for their promise in improving education.

Argrow helped change the aerospace engineering curriculum to incorporate more emphasis on active learning. His proactive teaching philosophy grew from his own learning and teaching experiences and from observing the interactions of teachers and students. He realized that conceptual knowledge enables students to learn and retain information so they can master the components of knowledge, rather than expecting them to just memorize facts and figures. His teaching model requires active participation and interaction between teacher and student.

He sums up his proactive teaching and learning philosophy this way: “Instruction and learning begin with instructor and student preparation. The classroom is not a place for instructors to show how much they know—the classroom is the place to learn what students do not know so those things become known.”

By incorporating a new teaching model with the hands-on learning experiences of student capstone research projects and the award-winning Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory, students become well versed in the concepts and practices of systems engineering. This outcome exemplifies Argrow’s ideal that a research university should educate students with an integrated experience in professional and ethical practice and research.

An educational project Argrow is excited about is the development of a center for engineering education and research to recognize the importance of advances in the science of learning on effective teaching and learning processes. The center will be an important resource for the study of effective teaching and learning processes.

“What I want to see is education, research, and assessment be full partners with the technical and science sides of engineering,” he said.

His early research focus at CU-Boulder was on high-speed aerodynamics and gas dynamics, where he modeled dense gas behavior with state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics.  A growing national interest in unmanned aircraft led Argrow to change his research direction in 2002 to focus on unmanned vehicle systems.

Today, Argrow has come full circle with his research and is once again investigating rarefied gas dynamics. He is involved with an Air Force project on how to stimulate the airflow around a spacecraft in orbit to predict satellite drag.

"We're at the point now with engineering research that rather than only working on specific pieces of technology or single systems, we need to develop technological systems of systems," he said. "The challenge is to address the complexity of all the systems working together."

*Read about Brian Argrow and his students' involvement in the VORTEX2 field campaign to study the formation of tornadoes using unmanned aerial vehicles in this CU Press Release.


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