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Career Connections: Aerospace Engineer

5 minutes

I'm Paul Orkwis, department head in aerospace engineering. I'm also Bradley Jones Professor of Aerospace Engineering.

(Orkwis) So aerospace engineering really deals with anything that flies. We care about making the aerodynamics, the structures, the controls, all of those sorts of things for a vehicle that's gonna fly. Ohio's where the ideas got started for aerospace. Two guys in a bicycle shop. In 1929, we were the country's second aeronautical engineering program and got started with help from Orville Wright, the first person to fly and, more importantly, land an airplane. And then we also had Neil Armstrong on faculty for ten years in the 1970s after he walked on the moon.

(Armstrong) That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. The first person to successfully fly and land and the first person to step on another celestial body. I don't think anybody matches us with that. It is a very strong combination of doing experimental work and simulation.

(Villalva) But these phenomena are still very complicated, so even the very most powerful computers cannot simulate everything. So, you simulate a lot of things, and then you do experiments to validate those simulations. What is shown here are videos, on the left, of an experiment, and on the right of a computer simulation in which you are trying to replicate that experiment. For me, simulation is exciting too, but then wind tunnels become a big part of this. Our wind tunnels can go from low speed to supersonic flow. We have a tunnel that will reach Mach 3 on a small scale. We also have tunnels where we're listening to aircraft noise. We're also testing things like combustors, which are the parts in an engine where the fuel mixes with the air and burns, and those places are exciting, because jet fuel's burning and fire's coming out. That's fun stuff. We have two varieties of detonation engine here. One is the pulse detonation engine. It has been largely superseded by this more advanced concept, which is called a rotating detonation engine. So you have about 3,000 to 7,000 rotations per second, and it creates a high-pitched screeching sound like a velociraptor. One of the main key components that I love about my job is that I get to light things on fire on a regular basis, and it's captured under the envelope of science. Also, the R.D. is on the cutting edge of propulsion in the world. We start off with things like mathematics and physics. Mostly physics, but you also use chemistry. Most of the things that we do are physics-based. Now, it's gonna sound strange, but English is another one. One of our biggest success factors are people doing well in AP English. Because its not just about making the technology. You can be the greatest person in the lab, but you need to make sure you're able to talk about stuff too.

(Orkwis) Someone told me when I was young, "If your head goes up when an airplane goes by, that's when you know you'll be an aerospace engineer."

Funding to purchase and make this educational production accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

PH:1-800-USA-LEARN (V) or WEB: www.ed.gov.

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Three aerospace engineers explain how they work with experiments, simulations, and wind tunnels to improve aeronautics. This segment also discusses Ohio’s unique contribution to aviation history, from the airplane to the moon. Part of the "Career Connections" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 5 minutes

Career Connections
Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 2
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 3
3 minutes
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Career Connections
Episode 4
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 5
5 minutes
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Career Connections
Episode 9
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Grade Level: 7 - 12
Career Connections
Episode 10
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Grade Level: 7 - 12