Any astronautics engineers around here?

AstroBeatle

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Hi, I am currently in 10th grade and am willing to take a course on astronautics engineering in university, and would want to be an astronautics engineer.
For those of you Orbinauts around here who actually also are astronautics engineering in profession, or have taken such a course in university, please tell me what each of you deal with and what you do (astronautics is a very diverse field; propulsion, space systems design, mission planning, etc).
What should I do starting now in high school, and what should I do to get accepted to an engineering school, or to the course itself? I am considering Arizona State for my Bachelor degree, and Purdue for my Masters.
For those of you who took the course, please tell me about your memories of what you've done in high school to take the course in university, and your grades.
And as for the course itself, I would like to know what it is actually like learning it. In university, what subjects did you take? What was learning, studying, and taking the course like? Any feelings of boredom or difficulty? How did you overcome stress, difficulty, and final semester exams? What do you do during your free time?
Once you have graduated, which industries/company did you apply to? What is it like to work as an astronautics engineer? Your triumphant moments and fall-back moments? What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job? How do you like your job overall? Sorry for pestering you all with many questions, but all in all, thanks.
 

Quick_Nick

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I'm going into my third year of university in aerospace engineering.
For high school: Get familiar with calculus and physics. If you do well enough to get college credit, you'll be ahead and at least reduce your workload for the first year or two. Even if you don't get college credit in highschool, you still need to get proficient in these subjects, whether that happens in high school or if you need to repeat those courses in college.
So far, I still enjoy learning about things related to my major. It's the gen ed requirements that annoy me.
First year was largely gen ed. Second year was more physics and basics for mechanical engineering. Third year appears to be where it will really be aerospace-focused. I have a wind tunnel lab that I'm a bit excited for.
I'll probably post more here later. :p
 

PhantomCruiser

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Huntsville? I almost took a job down there on Sparkman Drive.

The more maths you have to more versitile you will be. Admittidly I'm not an engineer, but a competant technician. I've been openly sneered at by some engineers, but I've also had more than one admit to me that I've saved their bacon (one in public [gasp!]).

Sometimes knowing the nuts and bolts can be pretty important. Once you get your sheepskin, please remember to at least pretend to listen to your technicians. We know your pretending, but at least we knew you'll have made an effort.
 

Odahs

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Consider your practical hands-on experience of engineering. It is very easy to be tied up with the academic side of an engineering degree, without picking up any practical knowledge at all.

I was lucky to have hands on experience before doing a masters in aerospace. Don't overlook a part-time job working with things mechanical or a technical hobby. Too many people go through an entire degree course without such basic knowledge and experience. Those that have a good practical background have a very big advantage throughout the course.

On the mathematics side, you will need a good grasps of calculus - remember in engineering maths is like a toolbox, learn how to do it, but most importantly bear in mind why you are learning it, what it has been used for and consider what you could use it for at all times. A tool only works if you know how to use or can think of new uses for it, not just because you know what it is. ;)

You should also have a very good grasp of Newtonian physics, as mentioned above, it should be second nature to you before you start the degree.

Most of all enjoy the journey and good luck to you!
 

Urwumpe

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The good news for me are: Most mechanical engineers suck badly at mathematics. :rofl: That means the software guys are often also the guys responsible for translating between engineers and mathematicians. Don't worry too much about not understanding math, because after you got your degree, only few people will care if you know how to solve a differential function yourself. But until that degree - you better learn the hell out of math, because your professors are not your later employer (in general)

In any engineering, the good guys are the reliable ones. Don't be too creative, what works almost perfect in 6 months is always better than something that has a 20% chance to work perfect in 6 years, don't be too academic and theoretical. Learn to observe and think silently, the loudest engineers are usually those which you can dispose first, while those who are always prepared for the next meeting are too important assets.
 
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Fabri91

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First year doing my masters in Space engineering.
Much math.

One of the often-heard complaints about the Italian system though is that often it leans too much on the theoretical side of things, which I can confirm are indeed very heavily stressed.

Then again, we can't do things the KSP way. :(
 

Dantassii

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I started a BS in Aerospace Engineering in the fall of 1983. I completed my BS in 1988 (4 year degree with 7 quarters of mandatory co-op). I then went on to get a MS in Mechanical Engineering and completed that in 1990 and then attempted to get a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering in 1995-1997. My major was in the area of Computational Fluid Dynamics and Numerical Heat Transfer Analysis with a minor in Spacecraft Design. So you could say I'm a Rocket Scientist by college degree. :)

The best suggestion I could have to anyone attempting a BS in Aerospace or Mechanical engineering is to take as many advanced math and sciences classes as possible as soon as possible in HS. Even if you struggle and don't ace the class, being exposed to the information will be a big help in understanding it when you cover the same material in college during your first year or 2 of your BS program. Unless you find the material trivially easy in HS, I would not recommend testing out of any of these classes, as they are usually worth a lot of credit hours and having 15 credit hours of A's from your Freshman year will be a big help in your overall GPA when you graduate.

If you have an interest in either starting your own company or working for a smaller company, having some business experience will be a big help, especially if you're interested in management. An MBA isn't required, but if you have a business degree to go along with your technical degree, the management opportunities increase considerably. I was never interested in a management position, so I went for the advanced technical degrees.

Another thing to keep in mind is your college GPA is very important. When I was in college, the job placement staff informed us that anyone with a GPA less than 3.4 would not get a job in the commercial market unless you had a co-op job with a company that had an opening when you graduated. If you had less than a 3.1 GPA you would not be able to get a job even in government as an engineer. Considering that only 1 person in my 34 member graduating class had a 3.4+ GPA and less than half of us had a 3.1+ GPA meant a lot of us ended up going to grad school which only required a 2.7+ GPA to get in.

Dantassii
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AstroBeatle

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My school does not offer separate math subjects like calculus or trigonometry, but instead we have "additional math" and I'm gonna learn topics related to calculus this year. So currently the subjects I take are: physics and chemistry (physics mandatory for my whole class but the other sciences, a choice between biology and chemistry), extended math, additional math (optional, but I took it because I know I need to for my dream job), geography (humanities courses on a choice between geography and history), English as a first language, Indonesian, and chinese (my Indonesian is okay in grades but I'm pretty rusty for an indonesian, and also I suck at chinese. Ironically, I'm an indo-Chinese.)
I think the subjects I take are efficient, and at the end of the year I am taking the IGCSE exams. Please give me tips and tell me how to do on the exams, particularly on physics and chem (practical and theoretical), extended and additional math (additional especially), geography, and english as a first language.
Honestly, I got to admit, sometimes I get bored and sleepy in class, so please tell me how to stay motivated and focused, and to achieve high marks in any subject (esp sciences and math). My sciences and math are okay though, but still I need advice. I think that sometimes it isn't good enough to get into an engineering school.
I am also considering to take SATs (math and english) and TOEFLs some time too, so I might as well need advice on these exams. Please tell me how to prepare and receive a high mark, and maybe some practice math and english SAT questions, and websites with SAT questions. Thanks.

---------- Post added at 10:26 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:16 AM ----------

And I want to ask, what were your grades in high school, average, and in math and sciences? What do you think is the "good enough" standard to get accepted into engineering school? In my report card in 9th grade, I've had 70s and 80s for math in each term, and 70s for additional math except for the last term where I got an 80. As for physics, I got around 91 to 94 for the first two terms, then at the third I quickly downgraded to a 70, then to somewhere around the 80s during my final term. Chemistry, I get 80s in my report card. To sum it up, I think I screwed up in my 9th grade, and my total average for all subjects is 84. Is there a chance that I still can get accepted in engineering school with a crappy 9th grade, but a better 10th grade and up? Thanks.
 

Odahs

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Aim high! Really the more maths you know beforehand, the easier the course will be.

My course was extremely theoretical and heavy on the maths. Many students I knew who started the course thought they had sound maths from school. Many struggled - there is no time to catch up once the course starts on basic mathematics. It really can't be said enough, you need to live and breath mathematics everyday as it is the language of engineering.

You could take a look at a book such as K.A.Stroud Engineering Mathematics, this is the level of mathematics one would preferably have pre-degree course.
 

Unstung

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I didn't stay long as a declared astrophysics major and switched back into aerospace engineering. Since much of this discussion revolves around math, I'll go ahead and list the specific major requirements that seem to be pretty universal:

Calculus I
Calculus II
Calculus III
Linear Algebra
Differential Equations

These classes are what makes engineers de facto mathematics minors.

In university, Calculus I covers differentiation, while the high school version I took introduced about a third of Calculus II topics. So the class provided a Calculus I credit and gave me some practice for Calculus II. However, a Calculus I/II class was also offered in my high school which is more akin to the pace of a university course. High school classes last a year, while university ones are only a semester long. The pace of Calculus I in a year-long high school course is pretty slow.

Simply put, Calculus II involves a lot of integration (reverse differentiation). Calculus III, or multivariable calculus, literally adds another dimension. Solving problems with multiple variables lets the user work in three dimensions or more.

Linear Algebra and Differential Equations for engineers (particularly aerospace/mechanical) are less focused on the complicated theory and more on solving problems. Differential Equations is all about solving differential equations, surprisingly, which requires skill in both differentiation and integration. So make sure to practice Calculus I and Calculus II material.

Also, don't forget trigonometry. From my experience, Statics and Dynamics requires plenty of trigonometry knowledge (beyond using trigonometric functions, which are often used in math classes). Algebra is essential to both trigonometry and calculus.

Remember that your experience may vary from mine, so not everything that I wrote may be applicable to you. Here are the primary online resources I used while studying calculus:
http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/
https://www.youtube.com/user/patrickJMT

Math can be difficult, but it seems simple in retrospect for me. Online resources and on-campus resources (tutoring center, office hours) can be very helpful. Whether a professor is understandable or not, I've had to study the topics outside of class (mostly with online resources).

While you're in high school, in addition to taking calculus, see if university level physics course is offered (Newtonian Mechanics and Electromagnetism). My experience with high school physics (easy) was nothing like university physics (difficult). Other than math and science, there's not much else to prepare for. "Real" engineering classes (disregarding an intro class) are not offered until later, starting in the second year.

By the way, I am enrolled in Arizona State University. If you indeed go there, the classes I've had will be identical to yours.

Another thing to keep in mind is your college GPA is very important. When I was in college, the job placement staff informed us that anyone with a GPA less than 3.4 would not get a job in the commercial market unless you had a co-op job with a company that had an opening when you graduated. If you had less than a 3.1 GPA you would not be able to get a job even in government as an engineer. Considering that only 1 person in my 34 member graduating class had a 3.4+ GPA and less than half of us had a 3.1+ GPA meant a lot of us ended up going to grad school which only required a 2.7+ GPA to get in.
:censored:
I never heard this.
 
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Quick_Nick

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That Lamar site that Unstung posted is fantastic. I regularly use it as a refresher even after finishing those main math classes. Great explanations and examples of most kinds of problems that will appear in your typical math textbooks.

Dantassii's post is also very good from what I've experienced so far. Even if you struggle, just being exposed to subjects before you have the class will likely make the class easier.

Calculus I is learning calculus. Calculus II-IV had overarching ideas of generalizing what you've previously learned. Diff Eq, in my opinion, was a different beast and felt like mostly memorizing things that would have been difficult to provide proofs for. I'm terrible at memorization (vs logical thinking) but I got through it fine.
 
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JSwift

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I'm a Mechanical Engineer and I can back up what the others have said about Physics and Math (all maths). Concentrate and do well in those subjects and it will make university admission easier. It helps if you like math too, because you will be getting a LOT of it in engineering. At my university, all engineers started out with a common first year and then branched into the disciplines. Further specializations happened in 3rd and 4th year. My university didn't have a dedicated Aerospace program but I did take the first naval architecture and aircraft design courses as electives for example. That could have served well to transfer to other programs later if I was so inclined - there are many paths you can take.

Also, a word about technicians as mentioned above. University alone may leave you without a lot of hands on experience in your chosen field. You will do well to listen to, respect and learn from those who have the real world experience.
 

BruceJohnJennerLawso

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mmhmm, definitely the maths if you want to go into Engineering. Pretty much every facet of calculus can be applied to engineering, along with most of linear algebra. Not to distract from Calculus, but I would also strongly reccomend delving a bit into linear algebra before you start uni. LinAlge became radically more difficult in University as compared to high school, although once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite simple again.

Not much love for Chemistry in this list?
 

Unstung

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Calculus I is learning calculus. Calculus II-IV had overarching ideas of generalizing what you've previously learned.
Calculus IV?

mmhmm, definitely the maths if you want to go into Engineering. Pretty much every facet of calculus can be applied to engineering, along with most of linear algebra. Not to distract from Calculus, but I would also strongly reccomend delving a bit into linear algebra before you start uni. LinAlge became radically more difficult in University as compared to high school, although once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite simple again.

Not much love for Chemistry in this list?
Chemistry I is required for many engineers and offered in the very first semester. The structure of that class was pretty similar to high school chemistry and the material is not much more advanced, so I didn't have trouble with university chemistry.

Since the Linear Algebra I took did not involve much theory, that class was also simple. It's more advanced than what's taught in high school, but using the determinant to find eigenvalues, for example, is a pretty simple process.


Also, I've looked into what's a good GPA for engineering majors. The consensus is that a good GPA (3.0+) is very helpful early on in a career, then experience matters most. There's a Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam that licenses US engineers as professionals. Passing that is probably very important.
 
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BruceJohnJennerLawso

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Chemistry I is required for many engineers and offered in the very first semester. The structure of that class was pretty similar to high school chemistry and the material is not much more advanced, so I didn't have trouble with university chemistry.

Just curious, thought it might be somewhat more relevant for engineers than just one course, given things like lattice structures. The MNS program at UWaterloo focuses on things like that, very interesting stuff

Since the Linear Algebra I took did not involve much theory, that class was also simple. It's more advanced than what's taught in high school, but using the determinant to find eigenvalues, for example, is a pretty simple process.

Ahh. In my case, my original program in MathPhys had me taking a proofs style course in linear algebra, which was where my hand developed the ability to write independently of my brain at full speed :lol:. I found that course very difficult though, at least partly because a prereq course on how to do proofs was skipped for my program. I did much better this last year when taking a non-proof linear algebra course for my current program.

The proof/non-proof course thing is something I argue with the physicists all the time. Im not fully convinced that theory focused courses are as beneficial as they claim, especially when the course content is rushed.
 

Quick_Nick

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Calculus IV?

Yes, my university had a four semester calculus program. I hear it's transitioning to three semesters now, like other regional universities have. I wouldn't really know the differences and can hardly recall what exactly was taught in my classes.
 
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