Thursday, July 15, 2010

Engineering Spotlights

If you've read Tuesday's post, you know that I've wanted to be an engineer since I was in the seventh grade.

At the time, I thought I could just go to college and major in "engineering". I thought that, like the engineers on Star Trek, all engineers were more or less the same. I couldn't have been more wrong.

In the ninth grade, my biology teacher required we write a paper on the career we wished to pursue. (Yes, that is a weird assignment for a biology class). I knew I wanted to be an engineer, and I wanted to work for NASA. So I pulled out my handy-dandy phone book (this was before the internet mindset had set in, but yes I did have internet) and I looked up my local NASA center's phone number. As a student in Orlando, that center was Kennedy Space Center.

I don't remember which number I called, but it eventually paid off. After many many phone calls, many re-directs, and being put on hold a billion times, I received an email. The email said I could interview a NASA engineer via email but that there were many types of engineers at NASA, which type did I want to interview? It then provided a list of engineer types.

So I pulled out my dictionary (oh yes, old school) and dutifully looked up every type. I did actually look them all up, even though it was the very first definition that snagged me.


1. the atmosphere and the space beyond considered as a whole.
2. the industry concerned with the design and manufacture of aircraft, rockets, missiles, spacecraft, etc., that operate in aerospace.

3. of or pertaining to aerospace or the aerospace industry.

(This definition is provided by

And yes, the definition does mean that aerospace engineering is rocket science.

Aerospace engineering was exactly what I wanted to do, and aerospace engineering is what I do.

But there are so many types of engineering, and how is the layperson supposed to be able to tell them apart? As a writer, how do you know if you need a computer engineer or an electrical engineer? And isn't an aerospace engineer just an overly specialized mechanical engineer? And what's the deal with computer science anyway? Is it science? Is it engineering?

And perhaps there is a reader out there who is contemplating becoming an engineer. Maybe you are struggling with exactly which type of engineering you should choose.

So I've come up with the idea of "Engineering Spotlights". Every Thursday, until I exhaust all possibilities, I will post an interview of or an article written by one of my friends about their respective type of engineering. (If I can convince them, but I can be quite convincing). I will probably start with myself next Thursday, just to give my friends of an example of what I'm looking for.

I'll do my best to bring you every type of engineer, from A to Z. And who knows, I might even through in a few of the sciences. I'll also try to give you a broad range within majors, because not even everyone in the same group does the same thing. For example, in aerospace things break down into aerodynamics, combustion, controls, space design, fixed wing design, rotary design...the list could go on.

If there is a particular type of engineer you would like to know about, please let me know and I'll shuffle one of that type to the top of the pile.

And my friends who are reading this blog, be prepared to receive an email from me, asking you to write up an explanation for our other readers. :)

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