Honestly, any kind of story is best told in pictures, much like a lesson is best shown, not told.
In my mind, engineering takes on lots of different forms. Here are some pictures which come to mind:
Truth be told, engineering in my mind takes on too many different forms to be able to post here! Really, engineering is a mindset. It’s about using math and science (along with other disciplines such as business, economics, and psychology) to meet the needs of society! When I was thinking about what to study while here at college, I fast forwarded a bit and thought about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life beyond my four years at USC. Most important in my mind was the ability to help other people- to be able to make some sort of impact on the overall quality of life for people. While I’m not saying this comes single handedly, I do think that engineers, when working together, are the sources of answers to our biggest challenges or obstacles, if you like that we face.
What do you take for granted in your life (not that we should, but what do you take as a “of course” item?). For me, these things might be: water, electricity, transportation (bike/car/plane), safe environment. Well, all of these things, from clean water, to being able to light up my apartment, to being able to make it back to Wyoming to see family via airplane, all of that stuff came from engineering accomplishments. The most amazing thing to me as an engineer is that tangible satisfaction you get when you’ve finished developing that idea product.
Particularly in the field of aerospace engineering, we get to build planes, space craft, Unmanned Air Vehicles, and even boats and parts of cars! I chose aerospace primarily because I got hooked on flying from a very young age (6 years old) when I first got on to Microsoft Flight Simulator.
So, how do classes at USC look like for a budding aerospace engineer such as yourself? Well, let me give you a brief run through (if you have any detailed questions, feel free to shoot us an e-mail via our Viterbi Student Ambassador’s, VSA page.
The great thing about classes here at USC is that they get you in to engineering right from the start. In my first semester, I got to take AME-105, Introduction to Aerospace Engineering. We certainly didn’t hold back in building our own planes- by November of my first semester here at USC, I had already built my own glider, and calculated performance data on it based on actual flight data, all summarized into a final report! If you’ll forgive me for my long hair, here is a picture of my group out on one of the athletic fields where we did this test flight (I’m in the middle).
Another class I took was ENGR-102, Engineering Freshman Academy- which was with 40 of my other engineering buds from across the majors. We had one project: to build a craft that would enable us to walk on water. Unfortunately, when we were actually doing the walking, my camera got in to the pool without my knowing, and so I don’t have any pictures! What was really cool about that was working with people from different majors, and also having guest speakers come in from industry (e.g. Google, Boeing, Disney etc) and speak to our class. As it would turn out, that was just the beginning of many industry interactions I have been privileged to have during my time at USC.
Sopohmore classes focus on a good combination of theory (where you take classes in statics, strengths of materials, and dynamics) and practical applications such as Basic Flight Mechanics (AME-261). In AME 261, we learned (granted, sometimes at a basic level) basically how everything in an aircraft performance manual is calculated, including stall speeds, take off and landing data, maximum turning speeds, climb and descent rates, fuel consumption, aircraft range/endurance etc. As a pilot, it was all brain candy! Our final project was to conceptually design a plane that would run on only liquid nitrogen and fly around the world at the equator non-stop.
Moving in to junior, year, the emphasis really kicks up on laboratory work and experimentation. (You get plenty in your physics classes in your Freshman/sophomore years, but this is on a more advanced level), with AME-341, Mechoptronics, a combination of mechanics, optics, and electronics. Great class, but definitely one of the most challenging sequence you’ll take at USC.
Finally, in your senior year, it’s all about you: you get to choose from several core and technical elective options. This is where you really personalize your degree. Within aerospace, you can choose such classes as advanced heat transfer, aerodynamic theory, energy and propulsion, engineers as teachers, engineering team management and beyond!
Beyond class, one my favorite clubs is the USC AeroDesign Team. Each year, about 30 of us design, build, and fly a plane to compete in the AIAA DBF competition.
Each year, the competition alternates between Wichita, KS (where it is this year), and Tucson, AZ. We compete against over 90 schools from around the world. Last year, we took 2nd place, beating MIT and Stanford, our big rivals at this competition. We’re poised for a very strong finish this year as well. Feel free to check out our website : USC ADT to find out more!
Here’s a picture from last year’s competition:
And our competition plane (notice how small it was, emphasizing the importance of performance!)
Honestly, what’s particularly great about ADT is not limited to the fact that I get to build planes (enough in its own right!) but also the fact that we have so much connection with the same faculty who teach our classes. Several of our faculty advisers spend hours with us in the lab and at our design meetings to help us critique and review our work to make sure it will perform the best it can at competition. The same is true with our industry advisers from Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Space X, and beyond! I would go so far as to say that being in ADT has “significantly” helped me get a job at Boeing, where I will be starting this summer, working in Aerodynamic Performance and Sales Development. It’s been generally the case for several of my friends working at Space X and Raytheon too! Being an active member of ADT gives me something really easy to talk about during interviews which is directly related to both my major and to the needs of the firm for which I am interviewing.
Whatever your major is, I would encourage you to get involved in the design team associated with your major. We have teams like Underwater Robotics (Mechanical/Electrical/ComputerSci), SteelBridge (Civil), Concrete Canoe (Civil), and many others!
Alas, after four years as an engineer here at USC, these are just some of the thoughts I have come up with for you. Check out what my other VSA buds think engineering is in their own words….engineering is what you make out of it, and in that light, engineering is your portal to the world! I certainly encourage you to get in contact with any of us VSAs to answer any questions you might have about engineering, aerospace in particular!
Hope everyone is having a great week. Next week is spring break- plan is to sleep in! 🙂