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Aerospace Engineer Question

Posted by: Max CR - Mon Mar 10, 2008 2:59 am
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Aerospace Engineer Question 
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Post Aerospace Engineer Question   Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 2:59 am
Hi. This seems like the right place to ask this question since it seems like a majority of the people on this website are into what I am into; that is the space program.

I am a junior in high school as of now, and I am working towards hopefully becoming an Aerospace Engineer. As of now I am in Geometry. After that, I will be taking Algebra II, College Algebra, Pre Calc, Physics I, and Phsyics II all before I graduate.

I am trying to find a good college that will get me into working for NASA, the military, or another space related company.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what classes I should take, what colleges I should look at, and anything else that will lead me to successfully become an Aerospace Engineer? Right now I am looking at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Does anyone hear any good things about that college?

My goal is to work for NASA. Any suggestions?

Thanks for the help!


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:21 am
As I'm not from the US I can't tell you any specifics but I have a suggestion for you:

Try to get internships for basic metallworking like welding, casting etc. That will help you later when you design/develop/engineer something to have a feeling for the possible difficulties in the realization.

Working for NASA will get more difficult in future I guess as many jobs will cease to exist after the Shuttle program is finished. Additionally in case Barack Obama becomes President this situation will get even more severe (We will run a story on that later this week).

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Post Go For IT!   Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 4:08 pm
If you are GOOD and have a PASSION for space, don't focus on NASA. Private spaceflight is primed to explode. Virgin Galactic, Bigelow Aerospace and others will be sending more humans into space than NASA ever has. You could be one of them.

I agree completely with Klaus: Master all the technologies you can. Certainly get seriously involved with electronics and microprocessors (buy a MicroChip introductory kit, or Parallax kit now, and learn to make it do interesting things.) Start flying rockets. Get involved in TRA (Tripoli Rocketry Association, http://www.tripoli.org ). This will allow you to do NOW what the best Stanford University students are doing: building and flying satellite type payloads. You don't actually have to build the rockets since you can make payloads to fly in other's rockets. These can include guidance systems if you want to face those challenges.

Excellence and outstanding accomplishments will open doors for you in colleges, scholarships and jobs. But being Outstanding means you Stand Out, by doing more than following planned courses. Personally I helped teach part of my high school physics class, because I had the equipment and experience to go beyond the scheduled class material. Your talents, efforts and accomplishments can similarly make a place for you.

If you are GOOD, you can prepare to help build the systems that private adventurers will use on the Moon and Mars. If you are Really Good, and have a wide range of skills, you will go along to keep these systems working!


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 6:11 pm
Thanks A LOT for the advice. Does anyone recommend any colleges? Does anyone here actually work for NASA?

Also, I know Stanford is a great college, however, I don't think my High School GPA at this time will allow me to get into that college. My freshman and sophtmore year I got mostly Bs, Cs, and a few Ds on my report card.

This year, my joinior year, I am getting straight As, and Bs. Most of them are As. My senior year I will be taking only four classes and I intend on doing well in them. Then of course, I am going to a community college to take the Physics and Math Classes next year which I may do well in also. This will hopefully give me an advantage like you had said. I also am planning on taking Computer Science as well.

Do you think under these circumstances Stanford will accept me since it seems to be one of the best space related colleges?

Thanks again for the advice everyone


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 7:30 pm
I guess this would be the time to make my first post as well. I'm glad Max asked these questions because I had to ask them myself. I am a senior at my school and I am pretty much doing what Max is doing (physics and math courses at the local community college). I was really into architecture until my senior year when I rebooted my love for space exploration. I'm starting later than I had hoped, but I will try to take heed to the advice here as much as possible.

Thank you max for opening this thread (beat me to it!) and thanks for the answers y'all!


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:41 pm
Techno311 wrote:
I guess this would be the time to make my first post as well. I'm glad Max asked these questions because I had to ask them myself. I am a senior at my school and I am pretty much doing what Max is doing (physics and math courses at the local community college). I was really into architecture until my senior year when I rebooted my love for space exploration. I'm starting later than I had hoped, but I will try to take heed to the advice here as much as possible.

Thank you max for opening this thread (beat me to it!) and thanks for the answers y'all!
Wow it's nice to see that I'm not the only one in this position. Techno, if you know anything about great colleges or anything else related to Aerospace Engineering, could you let me know? I've read in many places that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is "the best aerospace engineering college". However, having read some astronauts biographies I can see that a few had gone to highly reguarded colleges such as Stanford.

Thanks.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:59 pm
Hi Max/Techno,

I'm an engineer in the aerospace industry. It's great to see young people passionate about aerospace. I'll share some of what I've learned. You are on the right track in that you are taking many math and science classes. If you want to work in the space industry, Aerospace Engineering is not the only degree you should consider. Depending on your interest keep an open mind and look at other engineering fields like

Mechanical Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Computer Science
Computer Engineering
Engineering Physics

Many different fields of expertise are needed in the space industry. I work for company that designs and builds geosynchronous commercial telecommunications satellites. We have very few actual "aerospace" engineers (people with degrees in aerospace engineering). We have people that work on software design, power, RF communications, telemetry, etc. and and these kinds of jobs require computer science or electrical engineering backgrounds. Again, it goes back to what your interest in space is. If you want to work more on spacecraft structures, controls, guidance, and/or manufacture then I recommend an aerospace or mechanical engineering degree.

As for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, it is fine school. A former co-worker I had at Lockheed Martin graduated from Embry-Riddle in Florida. In the end what school you graduate from is not as important as whet you learn and how you apply yourself in school. I've taken some graduate classes at Stanford and they have a fine program. Santa Clara University also has a fine Mechanical Engineering program that does a lot of work with autonomous robotic systems with space applications as well.

Another suggestion's is to not just focus getting job with NASA. They don't pay as much as private companies and they outsource most of their spacecraft work. Commercial space will expand in the next 10-15 years which will correspond with your prime employment years. I assume you will graduate from high school in 2009? That's means you'll only be 30 in the year 2021 when all these lunar and Martian missions should be coming to fruition. You'll only be 40 in 2031 when we may be pushing out to the outer planets. I'm so excited for you. Who knows maybe you'll work on a fusion powered interstellar vehicle that will get to the nearest star in a lifetime like Project Daedalus or Project Longshot.

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Last edited by Rocket Scientist on Tue Mar 11, 2008 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 11:20 pm
Thanks A LOT for the advice. The Internet is great because I can't speak to anyone about Aerospace Engineering in my area since a career as an Aerospace Engineer is not the most common job. Yes I am graduating in 2009.

I am also most likely going to be taking Computer Science courses next year also to get experience that I can put on applications for work and for college applications, as rpspeck said. I have a cousin that is working for Bloomberg so I have an advantage since he is willing to guide to towards working with UNIX operating system. Computer Science has always been something I was interested in as well.

Another question that I have been interested in asking an engineer in the Aerospace Industry is what is your daily routine? Would you mind telling me what you do at work each and everyday? The reason I ask is because rockets don't shoot off into outer space everyday. I am interested in understanding what engineers do each day to prepare for a launch.

So would mind telling me, what do you do as a daily work routine?

Thanks again for the info.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 10, 2008 11:38 pm
Max CR wrote:
Another question that I have been interested in asking an engineer in the Aerospace Industry is what is your daily routine? Would you mind telling me what you do at work each and everyday? The reason I ask is because rockets don't shoot off into outer space everyday. I am interested in understanding what engineers do each day to prepare for a launch.

So would mind telling me, what do you do as a daily work routine?

Thanks again for the info.


First, I like to point out is that there much more to aerospace than just launching rockets.

I work as a Spacecraft Configuration Engineer. I'm responsible for creating detailed CAD models of our satellites and making sure every component fits with everything else and that there are no interference issues. From this I create drawings to be used on the floor to build the satellites. I update drawings when changed need to be made and I support the manufacturing floor. Before this job I worked on the manufacturing floor for almost five years building satellites. I was the engineering lead given the technicians tasks to perform.

I've also worked for Lockheed Martin as a tool designer. In that job I basically designed tooling to help with the manufacturing and assembly of space systems. As an example say you have a spacecraft to lift. I would design a lifting sling to lift the spacecraft properly and safely. This kind of tooling is called MAGE (Mechanical Aerospace Ground Equipment). another "tool" I worked on was a large sheet metal box that needed to hold sensitive flight hardware in a large oven to bake the parts at 300 C and purged with nitrogen at the same time. Creating a box with the fittings and hoses to withstand 300 C was a challenge.

I'm also putting a team together to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize. I will be the mechanical systems engineer on this project. My role will be to look at systems level issues and to make sure the system will work how it's supposed to work. This job requires one to be a "jack-of-all-trades" having to know a little bit about everything.


Another suggestion is to learn some CAD when you get a chance. An engineer with a solid CAD background is valuable. We use Pro/ENGINEER here at my work. I also know SolidWorks and I-DEAS. Most modern CAD systems are very similar.

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Last edited by Rocket Scientist on Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 11, 2008 2:24 am
Great advice. They offer CAD my senior year of high school, however, the programs they use in the class were made in the 90's from a company that no longer exists. I'm going to look into taking CAD at a college level next year or over the summer. I have also read in many places that CAD is important in the aerospace engineering field. I am looking in my course selection guide and I see an AutoCAD class. Ever hear of the program?

Thanks,

By the way good luck with the lunar x prize! It will be nice to say that I spoke with someone who actually landed a rover on the moon.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 11, 2008 4:32 am
Max,
right now I am signed up for the University of Cincinatti (ohio). Its an in state school and it has a pretty good program (based off ratings i found).

Rocket Scientist,
I currently have a "certificate" in autoCAD. I have used basic autoCAD, ArchiCAD(Architectual), and Autodesk Inventor CAD. The community college offers a class in pro engineer, but I am wondering whether I should take that or if I should learn another CAD program. Could anyone let us know what is probably the most common software?

Also,
Right now I am going to UC for a bachelors in physics. I have no plans to be a physicist, but I have some interest in it and other basic sciences. I am thinking about dual majoring with some sort of engineering and a science(not ruling out computer). I think my biggest wish right now is to be an astronaut, but we'll see. I'm not sure where I will end up in the space industry, but I will be participating in it.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 11, 2008 4:45 pm
Max CR wrote:
Great advice. They offer CAD my senior year of high school, however, the programs they use in the class were made in the 90's from a company that no longer exists. I'm going to look into taking CAD at a college level next year or over the summer. I have also read in many places that CAD is important in the aerospace engineering field. I am looking in my course selection guide and I see an AutoCAD class. Ever hear of the program?

I wouldn't bother with 2-D CAD programs like AutoCAD unless you learn their 3-D program, Inventor. Today most major CAD programs work the same way. They are all 3-D parametric programs. You start with a 2-D sketch, then you "stretch" the sketch into 3-D space to create parts. They you combine parts to create assemblies. Then you can create drawings for the parts and assemblies. The major CAD programs used in aerospace are:

CATIA
Pro/ENGINEER
Unigraphics
Solidworks
SolidEdge

I have one suggestion. You can purchase student versions of Pro/E and Solidworks for about $100. With this student version and a good how-to book you can learn these CAD programs on you own if you wish.


Quote:
By the way good luck with the lunar x prize! It will be nice to say that I spoke with someone who actually landed a rover on the moon.

Thanks! Once our team is funded and ready to go I'll probably post updates on this forum.

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Last edited by Rocket Scientist on Tue Mar 11, 2008 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 11, 2008 4:49 pm
Techno311 wrote:

Rocket Scientist,
I currently have a "certificate" in autoCAD. I have used basic autoCAD, ArchiCAD(Architectual), and Autodesk Inventor CAD. The community college offers a class in pro engineer, but I am wondering whether I should take that or if I should learn another CAD program. Could anyone let us know what is probably the most common software?


Pro/E is one of the major CAD programs out there. It is used in many many industries. I use Pro/E in my satellite design work.

Quote:
Also,
Right now I am going to UC for a bachelors in physics. I have no plans to be a physicist, but I have some interest in it and other basic sciences. I am thinking about dual majoring with some sort of engineering and a science(not ruling out computer). I think my biggest wish right now is to be an astronaut, but we'll see. I'm not sure where I will end up in the space industry, but I will be participating in it.

One of my best friends works in the same group as I do. She also does spacecraft design work and her bachelor's degree is in physics. As I said before many kinds of degrees can get you into aerospace. Shoot I know people at work that have Civil Engineering degrees yet they work for an aerospace company!

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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 13, 2008 8:12 am
Never knew SolidWorks was used in the field. It's easy to learn imo.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:22 pm
Stefan Sigwarth wrote:
Never knew SolidWorks was used in the field. It's easy to learn imo.


Oh yes, a good part on the Mars Exploration Rovers were designed with Solidworks. Solidworks is often used by smaller companies and contractors.

I've spoken to the president of the manufacturing company, called Next Intent, that fabricated the wheels for the the two MERs. They worked with JPL on the wheel design using SolidWorks.

http://www.nextintent.com/parts.html

Also Alliance Space Systems, Inc., also was a major contractor on the MERs program and the use Solidworks as well.

http://www.solidworks.com/pages/success ... record=907

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