Engineering Education at Virginia Tech
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Wm. Michael Butler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Practice

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103 Surge
Blacksburg, Va 24061

Ph.D. Engineering Education, Virginia Tech, 2012
M.S. Aerospace Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1995
B.S. Aerospace Engineering, Virginia Tech, 1989

Research Interests:
  • Application of Live Simulation Based Learning (LSBL) in Engineering Education
  • Application of Game Based Learning in Engineering Education
  • Study of the design of Hybrid Vehicles (i.e. vehicles capable of efficient operation in multiple mediums - air/sea/space)
  • Hypersonic Vehicle design
Teaching Interests:
  • First Year Engineering Design Courses
  • Graduate Level Engineering Design Courses
  • Air Vehicle Design courses

My research and teaching interests focus on understanding and influencing motivation in the context of engineering education and professional practice. My research examines: 1) student motivation for engagement in learning, 2) persistence in earning an engineering degree and pursuing engineering careers, and 3) faculty motivation for adopting research-based teaching practices. My teaching brings research-based best practices for increasing student motivation to the undergraduate classroom and prepares graduate students to use these same practices in their future classroom settings.


Michael Butler is an aerospace engineer and educator. He received a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech and was an aircraft designer in the "Skunk Works" at Lockheed Martin for over 20 years. During his time at Lockheed Martin he has been involved in the design of vehicles that range from subsonic low speed aircraft to vehicles capable of orbit and travel to the moon. Butler was Chief Engineer on a multi-million dollar contract (DARPA Rapid Eye) consisting of a multi-company team exploring a rapidly deployable UAV. Butler has two patents in air vehicle design. His technical research areas of interest include the design of hybrid vehicles (i.e. vehicles capable of efficient operation in multiple mediums - air/sea/space) and hypersonic vehicle design. On the education front, Butler received a PhD. Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. He is the Director of the Frith Freshman Design Lab and helps to coordinate the integration of the lab into the first year engineering courses. In addition he works with the university and the ENGE Department administration to coordinate industry/academia efforts to work with the lab and provide materials and opportunities for the engineering students. Butler is also a Course Coordinator for the ENGE 1216 Foundations of Engineering II design course. In that capacity he works to develop course materials, coordinating a teaching team, and also instructing for that class. Butler's research interests include exploring the integration of game based learning in engineering education and the use of live simulation based learning in the classroom to help students be better prepared for life in the industrial workforce upon graduation from college.

Awards & Honors

  • Assorted Lockheed Martin Service Awards (Including recognition for work on Liquid Fly-Back Boosters and the F-16 Conformal Fuel Tanks)
  • Virginia Space Grant Consortium Fellow, 1991-1992


  • Butler, W.M., "A Study of Aerospace Engineering Student Professional Persistence," ASEE Annual Conference, June 14-17, 2015, Seattle, Washington
  • Butler, W.M., "An Experiment in Live Simulation-Based Learning in Aircraft Design and its Impact on Student Preparedness for Engineering Practice," ASEE Annual Conference, June 23-26, 2013, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Butler, W.M., Terpenny, J., Goff, R., Pant, R., Steinhauer, H., "Improving the Aerospace Capstone Design Experience Through Simulation Based Learning," International Journal of Engineering Education, February 2012: Volume 28, No. 2, 1-9.
  • Barnes, K.H. and Butler, W.M, "Conceptual Design for a Space Shuttle Liquid Fly-Back Booster," JANNAF Joint Propulsion Meeting, July 15-17, 1998

Engineering Education at Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech
Engineering Education (MC 0218)
345 Goodwin Hall
635 Prices Fork Rd
Blacksburg, Va 24061
(540) 231-6555
Fax (540) 231-6903