Tag Archive for 'engineering'

Introduce a Girl to Engineering

Being at UVa at the moment, I didn’t see this post about Google bringing girls in to shadow people on “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” until today, but I think that’s awesome. We need more women in math, science, and engineering, and my feeling on the matter is that if some women don’t just go out and do it, girls aren’t going to be inspired to follow those role models and we won’t see any change. This may explain why I’m willing to consider working in a lab where I would be the sole female.

Thoughts of Rome

In searching for entertainment today, I came across the History Channel’s special Rome: Engineering an Empire. I never cease to be amazed at the engineering feats that the Romans managed. Even standing inside the dome of the Pantheon, it’s nearly impossible to comprehend how it can be standing, let alone how the ancient Romans managed to build it with what they had. Certainly, an unlimited amount of slave labor goes a long way, but, nevertheless, it takes some serious engineering to build a concrete dome 150 ft in diameter that has no columns or buttresses supporting it.

I must admit that I’ve had something of a romantic vision of Rome in my head ever since I visited there in 1999. How many places have such incredible history staring one in the face from thousands of ruins dotting the modern cityscape? I’ve been to other ruins, older ruins, but something–I’ve never been entirely sure what–makes Rome different. Perhaps I just enjoy umbrella pines more than olive trees.

I often think how tremendous it must have been to see these places in their heyday. To walk through the Roman forum on a typical day. To enter the Parthenon in Athens with eyes uplifted in awe the way one does in medieval cathedrals. To float down the Nile and see the Giza plateau glittering in the sunset before time and looters had their way. Walking through fields strewn with boulders of marble and stone that only hint at the former glory cannot give those places and the people that made them justice, not even in our imaginations. Perhaps that’s why sites like Pompeii are so important. Despite the damage that buried that city, large portions remain nearly intact–at least by comparison with other ancient ruins–and it’s much easier, as one walks down the paved streets creased with ruts from chariot wheels, to imagine the people who lived there. As tied up as my imagination gets with such fodder, it’s no wonder that my writing took off shortly after moving to Europe.

You know, I do believe I could have been an historian. Or perhaps an archaeologist, just as I once told my first grade teacher I would be. Poor woman, she had to look up how to spell it in the dictionary.

First Hand Flight Dynamics

Cessna 172s My Saturday (September 10th, for those who are counting) started early last week. A couple of my classmates and I were awake enough to watch the sun rise on our way to OSU‘s airport for an optional “class field trip”. Our professor arranged flight tests for us so that we could experience some of the manuevers we learn about in flight dynamics. Or, to put it in the terms my classmates and I would use: he provided an awesome excuse for us to get to fly in Cessna 172s.

Although I’ve had more commercial flights than I can count in the past six or seven years, I’d never flown on a small aircraft before. Doing so was tremendously fun. I crunched into the rear seat behind the pilot, which, sadly, did not provide the best views, but it was cool nonetheless. We only had three headsets amongst four people (and the mic didn’t work on one), so that prevented some question-asking–and some of the measurements we were meant to be taking, but that provided me with an excuse to sit back and enjoy the ride. I got some nice photos of the aircraft and aerial views of the area.

Aerial view Being crazy like I am, the most fun was naturally to be had during the manuevers. Going into the flight, I figured that the phugoid would be the highlight, since our professor made it clear that some people tend to dislike the feeling of the oscillatory motion. But the real highlights were the demonstrated stalls. Up and up the nose went, and I could feel the aircraft slowing down. When an aircraft cruises, I typically feel like I’m as well supported as I am when driving on a road. But slow down, and I can feel the “bouyant” force slipping. The thread holding us up gets thinner and thinner. A warning whistle fires, its sound shriller as we continue to climb. The nose pitches downward, and those of us taken by surprise grab for something to hold on to. But by the time we realize the futility of that, the aircraft has recovered and the pilot has us back in steady flight. We did that three times, and I think all of us would have been happy to do it a few more times.

I was sorry when the flight ended, but I guess that’s just motivation for me to: a) become friends with a pilot or b) get my own pilot’s license. In the meantime, though, I have to get that aerospace degree finished.