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Curriculum and Requirements

All MIT students must complete the General Institute Requirements. The GIRs include courses in physics, math, chemistry, biology, the humanities, and social sciences.


In AeroAstro capstone courses, seniors develop projects that integrate the skills they have learned throughout their earlier coursework. These students, pictured with their professor and instructors, have built a legged rover for exploring extraterrestrial surfaces.

students with blimp

AeroAstro Curriculum

The AeroAstro undergraduate curriculum consists of three main blocks:

  • Core Curriculum: Introduces students to aerospace engineering fundamentals.
  • Professional Area and Concentration Subjects: Courses that treat more extensively, and in greater depth, the material covered in the Core Curriculum.  Concentration subjects provide students in-depth study of a field of the student’s choosing.
  • Capstone Subjects: Through experimental work and projects, integrates engineering disciplines, and applies much of what has been learned in the Core, Professional Area and Concentration subjects.

Core Curriculum

The AeroAstro Core Curriculum introduces students to the fundamental disciplines of aerospace engineering, providing a basic understanding of:

  • materials and structures
  • fluids and aerodynamics
  • thermodynamics
  • physics and dynamics
  • electronic signals, systems
  • circuits, propulsion, control systems, computer programming

Much of the Core Curriculum is covered in a course called Unified Engineering, which is offered in sets of two 12-unit subjects in two successive semesters. All our AeroAstro students take Unified Engineering together, building friendships and connections. Unified Engineering is taught cooperatively by several faculty members. Laboratory experiments are performed, and systems problems tying the disciplines together are included.

In addition to Unified Engineering, in the Core Curriculum there are five other courses for 16-1 and 16-2 students and three other courses for 16-ENG students. Two courses — Dynamics and Principles of Automatic Control — are typically taken in the first semester of the junior year. (Students in the 16-ENG program — see below — have the option of taking either Dynamics or Principles of Automatic Control.) The other Core Curriculum courses are Differential Equations, Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving; and Statistics and Probability (required only for 16-1 and 16-2 majors). These three courses are usually taken in the sophomore year.

Professional Area Subjects (16-1, 16-2)

Professional Area Subjects are courses that treat more completely, and in greater depth, the material covered in the Core Curriculum. Students must take four Professional Area Subjects from a selection of 10 offerings. The subjects are organized into two branches corresponding to Aerospace Engineering (Course 16-1) and Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology (Course 16-2). In Course 16-1, students take at least two subjects designated as Aerospace Engineering. In Course 16-2, students take at least three subjects from among the Aerospace Information Technology list.

Aerospace Engineering subjects represent traditional aerospace disciplines integral to the design and construction of modern aircraft and spacecraft. Subjects in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology are in the broad disciplinary area of information technology, which play an ever-increasing role in modern aircraft and spacecraft.

Experimental and Capstone Subjects

Culminating the three programs are our aerospace laboratories and capstone subject sequences. These subjects serve to integrate the various disciplines, and emphasize the conceive-design-implement-operate context of the curriculum. They also satisfy the C-IM (Communication Intensive subject in the Major) undergraduate requirement.

The Course 16 capstone subjects integrate the aerospace disciplines and employ the broad CDIO context of the AeroAstro curriculum. They also satisfy the Communication Requirement as Communication-Intensive in the Major (CI-M) subjects. The vehicle and system design subjects (16.82 and 16.83) require student teams to apply their undergraduate knowledge to the design of an aircraft or spacecraft system. One of these two subjects is required and is typically taken in the second term of the junior year or in the senior year. Students are expected to complete at least two professional area or concentration subjects to be allowed in 16.82 or 16.83. The rest of the capstone requirement is met by one of three 18-unit subjects or subject sequences: 16.621 and 16.622 Experimental Projects I and II; or 16.821 Flight Vehicle Development; or 16.831 Space Systems Development. These sequences satisfy the Institute Laboratory Requirement. In 16.821 and 16.831 students build and operate the vehicles or systems developed in 16.82 and 16.83. In 16.621/16.622, students conceive, design, and execute an original experimental research project in collaboration with a partner and a faculty advisor.

course 16 curriculum


Concentration Subjects (16-ENG)

A significant part of the 16-ENG curriculum consists of electives selected by the student to provide in-depth study of a field of choice. A wide variety of concentrations is possible in which well-selected academic subjects complement a foundation in aerospace engineering and General Institute Requirements. The department has put in place several concentrations in the areas of autonomous systems, communications, computational engineering, energy, engineering management, environment, space exploration, and transportation. Concentrations are not limited to those listed above. Students can select a pre-defined concentration or may design and propose a technically oriented concentration that reflects their own needs and those of society. All concentrations must be approved by a concentration advisor and by the AeroAstro Undergraduate Committee. A student's overall program must contain a total of at least 1.5 years of engineering content (144 units) appropriate to the student's field of study. The required core, lab, and capstone subjects include 102 units of engineering topics. Thus, concentrations must include at least 42 more units of engineering topics. In addition, each concentration must include 12 units of mathematics or science.

16-eng chart

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