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Aerospace Engineering

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MIT Undergraduate Departments
Aerospace Engineering
Course 16
Programs Offered: Major, Double Major, Minor
Department Head: Jaime Peraire
Department Headquarters: 33-207
Undergraduate Administrator: Marie Stuppard
Undergraduate Office: 33-208
UROP Coordinator: Manuel Martinez-Sanchez

Aerospace Engineering is a course of study offered by MIT's [Aeronautics and Astronautics Department], otherwise known as Course 16-1.


Overview and History

MIT's undergraduate program in aeronautical engineering, Course XVI, began in 1926, under the auspices of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Course 16

Major Requirements

The Course 16 major requirements are as follows:

Departmental Core

Students must take all of the following:

• Differential Equations (12 units): 18.03 or 18.034

• Unified Engineering I (12 units): 16.001

• Unified Engineering II (12 units): 16.002

• Unified Engineering III (12 units): 16.003

• Unified Engineering IV (12 units): 16.004

• Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving (12 units): 1.00

• Principles of Automatic Control (12 units): 16.06

• Dynamics (12 units): 16.07

• Probabilistic Systems Analysis (12 units): 6.041

Professional Subject Areas

All Course XVI students must take 48 units, the equivalent of four classes, from the subjects listed below. For the 16-1 major, at least 24 of these units must be from those listed under the Aerospace Engineering heading. Additionally, students must choose from classes in at least three different professional subject areas.

Aerospace Engineering

Fluid Mechanics

• Aerodynamics: 16.100

Materials and Structures

• Structural Mechanics: 16.20


• Introduction to Propulsion Systems: 16.50

Computational Tools

• Computational Methods in Aerospace Engineering: 16.90

Aerospace Information Technology

Estimation and Control

• Feedback Control Systems: 16.30

Computer Systems

• Introductory Digital Systems Lab: 6.111

• Real-Time Systems and Software: 16.35

Communication Systems

• Communication Systems and Networks: 16.35

Humans and Automation

• Human Factors Engineering: 16.400

• Principles of Autonomy and Decision Making: 16.410


Unified Engineering is an intensive program which all Course 16 students must take during their sophomore year. It consists of four classes worth of material rolled into two semesters of 24 units each. The material focuses on fundamental topics of aerospace as an introduction to the major. These include fluids, structures and materials, propulsion, thermodynamics, signals and systems which are all taught in parallel. The class meets every morning for two hours and is taught by a team of faculty, each who is an expert in one of the material fields. Although the format of the class varies slightly from year to year, students can expect problem sets every week with approximately ten problems covering material from each of the focus areas and numerous tests. The tests in this class are generally one hour each and focus on one subject area, although most often they are given two or sometimes even three (if the professors are experimenting with class format) back to back in the two hour class period.

Unified also has a laboratory component. During the first semester of the class, students design and build water rockets from 2L soda bottles and compete to see which can go highest and carry the most payload. Another popular lab is the GE Challenge. In this assignment, real industry engineers from GE Aviation present a jet engine design problem and students work in teams to solve it. The teams must then present to the GE employees and are critiqued on their design providing a taste of real world experience to the sophomores. At the end of second semester, Unified wraps up by hosting a flight competition in which students work in small teams to design, build, and fly remote controlled planes which are scored based on parameters such as empty weight, max payload weight, and max speed. This lab challenges students to combine all that they have learned during the year into their design.

Unified is considered by many to be on of the more challenging classes at MIT because of its density of material and workload. While it is not for the faint of heart, the class does provide a comprehensive introduction to the aerospace field necessary for moving forward. Also, the class makes Course 16 unique in the fact that all new students are taking the same subjects at the same time which allows for strong bonds to form between students and their classmates. These bonds are infinitely helpful during junior and senior year when classes get harder. Unified also allows students to interact extensively with faculty. There are numerous office hours held by both professors and graduate TAs, and it is not uncommon to see professors walking through the Unified Lounge spontaneously and stopping to answer questions.

Official (External) Links

Department Website

Degree Requirements