7 Questions with an Aerospace Engineering Alumnus

A career coaching website, themuse.com ,often features up and coming young professionals, like our very own alumnus and aerospace engineering graduate student, Ryan Haughey.  Haughey is currently a Loads & Dynamic Engineer with Northrop Grumman who took the time to answer a few questions about what he is up to now and how his Florid Tech experience helped him get there.   

Q&A with an aerospace engineering master’s student

Tell us a little bit about landing the internship at Northrop Grumman, how did that come about? And then the job?

My internship was actually initiated through Florida Tech’s connection with Northrop Grumman. In 2014, I was part of the student design team which took home the Northrop Grumman top award in Engineering. I still had one more year of undergraduate school to complete. After the showcase, I approached my advisor and said, “I think we should continue on with this project; I think it has a lot of potential.” From there, I presented to a group from Northrop Grumman with a proposal for continued undergraduate research to expand and continue the project. This exposure helped me gain a network. I had applied for the internship because I planned to continue on to grad school in the fall of 2015. During my internship, I enjoyed working for Northrop Grumman so much that I had brought it up to my manager that I’d like to consider staying on as a full time employee. After receiving my offer of full time employment, I was given the opportunity to stay in Melbourne, which would allow me to work full time and continue with my education at Florida Tech toward a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

 What does a typical day look like for a stress engineer?

I’m actually a Loads and Dynamics engineer, so I’ll answer the question for this role. One of my favorite parts of my job is that there is no typical day. Some days I’ll be working with aerodynamics engineers to develop CFD solutions (pressure distributions) that we may need, or some days I may be working with the mass properties team to get accurate weight distributions for our analysis, or some days I’ll be working with the structural strength team. My job is very interdisciplinary because, as loads and dynamics engineers, we have to take into account every aspect of the vehicle. I think that’s my favorite part about my job – it’s all encompassing of what I learned at Florida Tech, and every day is a new challenge. Every day I get to work with a team of very smart engineers to develop a solution to a complex problem.

What is your favorite Florida Tech memory of when you were an aerospace engineering undergrad?

I think my favorite memory as an undergrad has to be the period of time we were working on our senior design project. We had to figure out how to work as a team, governing ourselves to accomplish a goal. Everybody came together and we made a successful project. It was a way for us to showcase what we had learned in our time as undergrads and we all became good friends doing it. I have so many memories of testing at the Applied Research Lab (ARL) late at night…sometimes successful, sometimes not so successful. But, either way, we were applying everything we had learned and showcasing it. Little did I know that during those late nights of testing and designing, I was building my resume.

 Can you tell us more about your student design project?

Our senior design project was called the “Variable Aspect Ratio UAV.” It applies a simple aerodynamic concept where the aspect ratio of the wings, or the ratio of the span^2/area can be manipulated at different flight speeds to lower the drag, thus increasing the flight time and range it can fly. Our design incorporated composite materials and 3D printed manufacturing to build a telescoping wing design which can transform dynamically between a 6-ft wingspan to a 10-ft wingspan. The idea is similar to that of an F-14, which is a variable sweep design.

I am now a professional mentor for an undergraduate research team working on their senior capstone project. They’re taking the original design and incorporating optimization techniques to build on the existing project and build a better design. I’m really impressed with what the team is doing and I am very proud that the company I work for is supporting this great opportunity for undergraduates to learn and get this type of experience by sponsoring the project.

How different is your aerospace engineering grad school experience now that you are working full-time? 

I will definitely say that there is a new appreciation for school after being an engineer in the “real world.” Seeing the practical application of the fundamentals learned in school has given me a new perspective in grad school. Otherwise, I don’t see much of a change, besides the fact that I am doing just night classes after work. It’s actually quite fun to be doing it this way, working during the day and doing classes, that is. I get to do a lot of practical application during the day and enhance my knowledge at night. A lot of times, I try to draw parallels to what I’m doing at the office and what I’m learning at night.

What is something someone would be surprised to learn about you?

I love music and the arts. I grew up taking piano lessons, and then picked up drums, guitar and the sax along the way. In high school I was in the jazz ensemble. I enjoy going to EDM festivals, country festivals, jazz festivals – really anything that has music and a big group atmosphere. To me, music and the arts are a way to kind of get a relief from the everyday technical life. Besides music, I love sports. I am a volunteer coach for the Florida Tech Club Baseball team.

Any advice you would give to prospective students thinking about pursuing an aerospace engineering degree?

Engineering is really the application of physics and mathematics (among other things). Without a solid foundation of these core subjects, the practical engineering applications may seem tougher than they really are. The stronger the foundation of these subjects, the easier it will be to apply them in practical applications.


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