Engineers Week: Touring Piper

Engineers Week is being celebrated from February 22 to February 27 2016 at Florida Tech. It is a week to honor engineering and those that have contributed to the field. Engineers Week is also where those involved in the field look to have fun in various ways to celebrate the development in science. In previous years during Engineers Week, various events have been hosted, including a Big Bang Theory trivia game at Northrop Grumman and opening ceremonies featuring guest speakers. This year’s ceremony was held on February 22 in the Pantherium and featured guest speaker Dr. Martin Glicksman, dean of the College of Engineering.

Engineers Week Opening Ceremony

One club on campus that really knows how to celebrate Engineers Week is the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). They are a campus branch of the national organization which focuses on the development of aerospace engineering. In previous years, they have held trips, on-campus competitions and STEM outreach in honor of Engineers Week. The best Engineers Week trip that I can remember was when we got to visit the aeronautical company Piper in Vero Beach for the 75th anniversary of the Piper Cub Aircraft.

During the tour, visitors got to go on the manufacturing floor. The manufacturing floor was the most interesting part of the tour. You enter the building in a hallway that has a picture of the lineage of some of the Piper Aircraft and learn the history of the company. Everyone has to be wearing long pants and closed toes shoes. They give you some hearing protection and eye protection before you enter through the large machine shop doors. We got to meet the people who built the planes and even have a Q&A session with one of Piper’s systems engineers.

Eleanor Roosevelt in a J-3 Piper Cub
Eleanor Roosevelt in a J-3 Piper Cub

Once you’re on the machine shop floor, you need to stay within the yellow marked lines, and look out for moving carts. There are multiple sections on the floor. You can see offices of people who work in the machine shop. There’s so much noise, I don’t know how they get anything done, but they do. We saw these giant machines that cut out parts using high speed water jets. Other areas are designated for riveting together wings. Across the way, there are people coating pieces in rust proofing paint. The machine shop itself, is huge.

The second area is assembly. On the left was a plane being assembled. We saw the fiberglass sections and the exposed metal and wings. We circled around and saw the plane from the front, but simply watching the plane assembly line was just awe inspiring. There are bins for parts that go on the plane and areas for last minute fitting adjustments. It’s one grand sight to see.

The last section of the shop is the storage section. This is where they store and work on parts that have not yet been specified to a plane. There are plane engines sitting around and fiberglass that is being formed into parts. You have to be careful here, or else you might breath in fiberglass. They stop production for tours to go through, so don’t wander away from the group.

Piper PA-18 Super Cub
Piper PA-18 Super Cub

It’s tours like these that really make you appreciate engineering and all that it does. You get to start at the beginning and see a piece of metal shaped into a wing and so many other parts that create a flying machine. This trip is what made me truly understand Engineers Week, and I can’t wait to see what Engineers Week 2017 brings.

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