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What does an engineer do in a typical day, exactly?

Posted by: The Legionnaire - Sat Jul 17, 2004 12:38 am
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What does an engineer do in a typical day, exactly? 
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Space Walker
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Post What does an engineer do in a typical day, exactly?   Posted on: Sat Jul 17, 2004 12:38 am
I know that engineers need math and science skills and I've read the stuff about choosing careers -- but one thing I still don't know is what do engineers, especially aerospace engineers, actually do, precisely? What I really want to know is what a "typical day" is like.

Do you spend most of your time interacting with others? Or are you alone with a calculator? Are you actually doing integrals and drawing schematics, or do you just let a computer do it for you? Do you spend lots of time testing or more time designing? How specialized is the work: does a "rocket scientist" actually work on just 'rockets,' or does he only get to work on a tiny aspect of a rocket engine, for instance?

I realize there's probably no "typical day" for an engineer, but I would appreciate any insights the engineers out there could provide.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jul 17, 2004 1:21 pm
Your right, there is no typical day. Various things happen in bursts mostly. As usual, the vast majority of your day is spent doing things other than engineering. Just what depends on where you are in the organization. You spend most of your time preparing for engineering. Trying to secure funding, hashing, re-hashing, and re-re-hashing requirements (sort of engineering I suppose), a whole lot of coordinating via e-mail, and answering multitudes of questions. If you have people under you, there's performance management issues to be dealt with.

The engineering is a collaborative effort, and you spend more time coordinating working groups and such so that the actual engineering occurs in busrts during those few moments when everything comes together.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 18, 2004 12:20 am
In the actual engineering aspect of the work, how much does computer-based CFD come into use? Am I right in suspecting that that's where most of the design work is done?

Oh, and kudos to The Legionnaire for starting this topic (I only wish I'd thought of it first) and to Irving for answering it.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 18, 2004 2:51 am
Irving wrote:
The engineering is a collaborative effort, and you spend more time coordinating working groups and such so that the actual engineering occurs in busrts during those few moments when everything comes together.


Can you describe what this "actual engineering" part of the job is like? Are you all clustered around a computer? A whiteboard?


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 18, 2004 12:49 pm
We're using the term engineering here rather loosely. There are a multitude of sub-catagories that involve all sorts of things. For example the use of CFD would be greater or less depending on whether your engineering a propulsion system, lifing body, cockpit instrument diplay, navigation system, and any one of the thousands of individual components that makes up a complex whole.

Engineering is comprised of a complex series of stages covering requirements, through design, test and fielding. There are various derivative methods covering prototyping and evolutionary engineering as well. What your doing is different at each step in each stage.

Computer based tools are used throughout the process to help manage the complexity as well as handle many of the repetitive or computational tasks required. Requirements and Configuration databases, specification databases. testing databases and modeling tools. You question seems to focus upon some aspects of the design and test stages, and in the end all sorts of tools are used from the proverbial napkin to whiteboards, powerpoint slides, visio, as well as the cool 3d modeling tools. So the question back, is what is "actual engineering?"


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 18, 2004 3:51 pm
Okay, that makes sense. So the next question is: what is your job description, title, and who do you work for? (assuming you don't mind answering any of those questions) Mostly to get a feel for whether this is typical in the big aerospace giants or in the little subcontractor companies.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 18, 2004 7:56 pm
Currently I'm not in aerospace, but in the past I've worked on inertial navigation systems with Litton & Honeywell, some space sensing applications with TRW, and a number of aircraft avionic & instrument packages with McDonnell Douglas and then Boeing.


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