April 2017: Engineering - Mechanical and Aerospace
What is engineering?
Engineering is a diverse field with many specialties. Chemical, civil, and mechanical engineering are just a few of these specialties. Engineering impacts many things in our everyday lives, from television sets, to amusement park rides, to even paper towels.
Aerospace engineers create machines that fly. This includes machines designed to fly to space, like rockets, as well as those designed to fly in our atmosphere, like planes and drones. Aerospace engineers employed by companies like Boeing and Airbus work on every inch of the aircraft produced by their companies. Some of their areas of focus include testing the strength of materials used, minimizing overall weight, and improving the way air flows over the wings of the plane.
When building airplanes, it is crucial to make sure that the lift created by the wings and engine can easily overpower the force of gravity created by the weight of the aircraft, passengers, and cargo. However, it is imperative not to compromise the stren
gth of the wings and airplane structure. This means aerospace and mechanical engineers have to perform “stress analysis” on parts of the machine. These reveal how likely parts of the plane are to fail under certain forces and loads. Test such as these, and the engineers who run them, help ensure we all travel safe in the air.
Gears and Engineers:
Mechanical engineers design and make machines that are important for making our lives easier. A few examples of these machines include cars, refrigerators, and engines. Gears are an important part in many of these machines. By turning specific parts, they move and change energy into forms that engineers can use.
A gear train is a series of gears mounted on a frame designed to achieve a specific purpose. By changing gear sizes along the train, a different speed of rotation can be created. If a small gear is used to turn a larger one, the small gear will complete a full rotation much quicker than the larger gear. This can be continued along the length of the chain such that the final gear turns at a drastically different pace than the first.
Our Path to the Stars:
When creating rockets, aerospace and mechanical engineers must work together to design three main things: the body of the rocket, the engine and the propellant (fuel) that allows the rocket to fly. In addition to designing the rocket, engineers must make many calculations to determine the best path for the rocket to follow, as well as calculate the amount of force the rocket needs to fly. A monumental achievement in aeronautical engineering was the creation of the Saturn V rocket. Developed by NASA, it was the rocket that first took humans to the moon.
Remove before launch:
“Remove before launch” and “remove before flight” tags are used by aerospace engineers. They are usually in the form of red ribbons and indicate that the part they are marking should only be attached to the aircraft while it is grounded. Those working on the aircraft then know to take the part off before the craft launches. A “remove before launch” tag might also be attached to items used to prevent the movement of mechanical parts while people are working on the aircraft.
April's STEM Star:
This month's STEM Star is Marielle Peregrino. Marelle holds a a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and is currently a researcher and Ph. D. candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder.
But Marielle is more than just a rocket scientists (as if that wasn't enough). Her passions extend far beyond the field of engineering, which drove her to create Missaerospace.com, a website dedicated to helping us all develop a deeper understanding of everything going on in the night's sky. But enough chit chat, let's get right to the interview!
1. Can you describe what an aerospace engineer studies and what you do on a daily basis?
Aerospace Engineers study a wide variety of topics ranging from propulsion to structures to guidance navigation and control with a variety of applications, including rockets, planes and satellites. While that is a wide spread, I am particularly concerned with Guidance Navigation and Control (which is the flight software) because I study astrodynamics, or how things move in space. On a daily basis, I run simulations to find patterns and then derive (using good ol' Math) why the satellite [object in space] is behaving the way it is.