• Question: What is the coolest thing you've learned as an engineer.

    Asked by LNOLA to Aisling, Colin, Laurence, Ned, Niamh on 4 Mar 2016.
    • Photo: Niamh Shaw

      Niamh Shaw answered on 4 Mar 2016:

      That engineers work as part of a team who all inspire each other. That engineers share a logical process of troubleshooting or fixing things. That the solution to a problem for me, comes from a phase of intense thinking and research about the issue, followed by a phase of not thinking about it, like some sort of subconscious thought process that continues in my brain without knowing its actually happening. And then the solution pops forward! and then I test. And re-test. And re-test. And that this same way of thinking also works on really creative or art problems too- it has been an invaluable tool for me to master.

    • Photo: Ned Dwyer

      Ned Dwyer answered on 4 Mar 2016:

      It was pretty fascinating when I discovered that there were satellites that could see thru clouds. Radar satellites use microwaves that go right thru clouds which is pretty handy in places like Ireland. The images are in black snd white but if you combine three images of the same place taken at different times you can get a colour image. Then it is pretty easy distinguish grass ftom forests from ploughed fields, water , towns , etc. Check out http://earth.eo.esa.int for lots of cool images.

    • Photo: Laurence O'Rourke

      Laurence O'Rourke answered on 5 Mar 2016:

      I’ve learned lots and lots of cool things during my years as an engineer so difficult to choose. Here’s one as an example – normally when a rocket places a satellite in space, there’s a big antenna in the earth pointing at the position in the sky where the separation from the rocket occurs and where the signal will suddenly appear from the satellite. If the rocket doesn’t work well and places the satellite in a different location then the antenna has to do a search on the sky to find it. They normally use a smaller antenna as it has a wider search field and once it gets the signal it then sends a message to the big one to move and repoint to the other position. I like the idea as having a lost satellite in space can be terrible and knowing there are many ways to find it is cool

    • Photo: Aisling Shannon

      Aisling Shannon answered on 7 Mar 2016:

      I think it is quite cool that most spacecraft have a device onboard called a Star Tracker, which uses the positions of the stars to navigate. Because we know where the stars are, when the spacecraft finds them in certain positions, then we can figure out exactly where the spacecraft is.

    • Photo: Colin Shirran

      Colin Shirran answered on 9 Mar 2016:

      I think the most interesting thing that I found out through engineering is that it actually takes more energy to go from low earth orbit (LEO) to the moon than it does to go from LEO to Mars. Both trajectory’s have to escape the pull of the earth but the difference is obviously in distance. However, Mars has an atmosphere (albeit a very thin one) where the moon has none. With this in mind it is possible for us to use the Martian atmosphere to slow down into an orbit around it. At the moon we have to use far more fuel to slow ourselves down than at Mars. Of course there are other variables that affect going to Mars being overall more expensive, but if the mass between both are considered equal, the energy used to get into an orbit around the moon is greater!