Undergraduate Curriculum and Requirements

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

Our 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, probability and statistics (only for the Course 16 degree)

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, and taught cooperatively by several faculty members. AeroAstro students take Unified Engineering together, building friendships and connections. 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 Course 16 students and three other courses for Course 16-ENG students. Two courses — Dynamics and Principles of Automatic Control — are typically taken in the first semester of the third year. (Students in the Course 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; Computer Programming; and Statistics and Probability (required for Course 16, but not Course 16-ENG, students). These courses are usually taken in the sophomore year.

Professional Area Subjects (Course 16)

Professional area subjects are courses that treat more completely, and in greater depth, the material covered in the Core Curriculum. Aerospace engineering subjects represent traditional aerospace disciplines integral to the design and construction of modern aircraft and spacecraft. Subjects in aerospace information technology are in the broad disciplinary area of information technology, which plays an ever-increasing role in modern aircraft and spacecraft.  Students must take four subjects (48 units) from among the Course 16 professional area subjects, with subjects in at least three areas. Students may choose to complete an option in aerospace information technology by taking 36 units from a designated group of subjects specified in the degree chart.

Concentration Subjects (Course 16-ENG)

A significant part of the Course 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 aerospace software engineering, autonomous systems, communications, computational engineering,computational sustainability, 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 Office. 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.  See the Course 16-ENG degree chart.

Laboratory and Capstone Subjects

Culminating the two 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. Several of them also fulfill the requirement for the Institute Lab and CI-M [communication intensive subjects (2) in the major].

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, both of which also satisfy the Institute CI-M (Communication Intensive Subject in the Major) requirement. The rest of the capstone requirement is met by either a 12-unit subject (16.405J) or 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 subjects satisfy the Institute Laboratory as well as CI-M requirements. In 16.821 and 16.831 students work in teams to 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.  In 16.405J, students specify and design a small-scale yet complex robot capable of real-time interaction with the natural world. 

Note: students must take at least one CI-M subject in the third year and a second in the fourth year, but since the 16.82/16.821 and 16.83/16.831 sequences meet alternate years, third year students interested in either of these sequences may end up taking both CI-M subjects in their fourth year.  In these circumstances, affected third year students will petition the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement with endorsement from the department's Undergraduate Office.