Greg Elliott to receive campus teaching award
This year, Department of Aerospace Engineering Professor and Interim Head Gregory S. Elliott will receive the University of Illinois campus award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
About 10 years ago, the department began a major effort to improve the hands-on component of its undergraduate curriculum, Elliott was the leading force behind the creation of two new hands-on design courses and the major upgrade of a senior-level laboratory course.
The introductory course on aircraft design, which is now a part of AE100, is taught to AE freshmen during their first semester on campus. In this truly innovative course, Elliott combined the presentation of basic concepts of applied aerodynamics, such as lift, drag, control surfaces, aircraft stability, etc., with hands-on lab experiments in wind tunnels, test flights at the remote controlled airfield located north of Champaign, and a team design/build/fly project of a remotely controlled flying wing.
A former student, Brandon Ngai, said, “Professor Elliott still carries incredible eagerness in sharing and explaining otherwise mundane characteristics of the world and how they are applied to engineering processes. To him, each concept is a fascinating phenomenon, and he passes this sense of interest down to his students through his teaching. From a student perspective, this shifts learning complex concepts from a chore to a pleasurable activity, and it is ultimately his passion for the subject matter that sets Professor Elliott apart from his counterparts.”
In Elliott’s AE498UAV, the course focuses on the design, manufacturing, and testing of unmanned aerial vehicles, an area of increasing importance in the field of autonomous aerial vehicles. At the start of that course, Elliott sets a mission challenge to the student, such as designing an ultra-light UAV to fly safely and take pictures during a basketball game at the State Farm Center. He then organizes them in teams for a friendly design/build/fly competition. Beyond critical teamwork, multidisciplinary design and systems engineering skills, this innovative course introduces a set of important manufacturing skills.
In addition, Elliot worked to modernize the entire required senior-level lab course in aerodynamics, fluid mechanics, and propulsion. Building on his expertise in flow diagnostics and experimental techniques, Elliott put together one of the most advanced and modern lab courses among all aerospace engineering programs—based on feedback received by external reviewers of the program.
Another one of his students, Branden Kirchner, said about Elliott, “He also consistently goes above and beyond his requirements as an instructor, regularly meeting with students outside of scheduled office hours as well as working long hours assisting with student course projects. One particular instance of this that stands out from my experience was when I was enrolled as an undergraduate student in his AE 498 - UAV course. I would frequently encounter Professor Elliott in the student project laboratories, well outside of typical working hours, constructing UAV components and working with students to ensure that nobody fell behind in the course.”
Examples of some of Elliott’s key contributions to AE460 include the combination of pressure-sensitive paint and laser diagnostics to analyze the flow around a delta wing, a countertop experiment on the performance of a small jet engine, a truly unique experiment on supersonic fluid flow, and the introduction of additive manufacturing in an airfoil design/wind tunnel testing exercise.
Elliott earned his B.S. ‘87, M.S. ‘89, and Ph.D. ‘93 in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University. He taught at Rutgers University for eight years before coming to the University of Illinois as an associate professor in 2003, and promoted to professor in 2008. Elliott served as the associate head for undergraduate programs from 2010 to 2014 and the associate head for graduate programs from 2016 to 2018. He is currently serving as the interim department head.