As a mechanical engineering technology student, the possibilities for design, fabrication and manufacturing are endless. So, one may ask, why not use these skills to improve the quality of our everyday lives? The ability to design and create mechanical testing equipment is priceless when it comes to observing the changes climate change is having on our lives.
Climate change is often associated with rising temperatures as well as rising sea levels. These factors are usually displayed on frequently seen simulations depicting the entire globe, using deep red and orange colors to show change. These simulations and other visual aids are crucial to conveying the effects of climate change. Also, evident is the necessity for accurate data to create such graphics. This is where testing equipment plays a vital role, without devices such as satellites and sea level gauges appropriate data would be nearly impossible to collect. These devices are designed and tested by engineering teams that most definitely include a mechanical engineer. Devices like satellites must be produced to withstand various harsh conditions, including but not limited to the forces generated when launching, as well as incredibly cold temperatures in orbit. They are often equipped with delicate testing equipment that must be protected to insure the integrity of the mission.
For instance, the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) is a satellite launched by NASA in 2006. The device is part of what NASA calls its A-Train, a series of five satellites orbiting earth to collect various data effecting climate change. The CALIPSO’S main objective is to collect data that will be used to study the effects clouds and aerosols have on the earth’s weather, climate and air quality. The device consists of components such as Solar panels, GPS antenna, various gyroscopes as well as LIDAR electronics, all of which are incredibly fragile. Furthermore, equipment such as sea level gauges are also subject to some tough conditions. These devices are submerged, and some parts can face some pretty strong winds. With that in mind, a team of engineers must create an appropriate casing to ensure the longevity of the testing equipment inside. These devices also come with a variety of other data collection devices such as pressure sensors. The sea level gage is often times part of a much larger system comprising of multiple data collection devices making them as a unit an engineering project.
A key role of a mechanical engineer’s job usually includes manufacturing, which in the case of developing the discussed equipment is essential. Through various technological advances manufacturing has changed drastically. The term Additive Manufacturing, or as it is often referred to as, 3D printing has changed our everyday lives. The process begins with a three-dimensional model that is then converted into a file recognized by the printing machine, to create complex geometries that were once impossible to create. This can revolutionize the way these devices are made. They can be produced not only quicker, but cheaper. At a cheaper rate, governments and other organizations will be able to easily implement them where necessary. This will ultimately increase the amount of data we can collect which will allow us to better understand climate change.
Ultimately, the engineer plays a vital role in the mission’s success. Without a trusted and well-versed engineering team, the devices would be rendered useless after quite a short amount of time. Therefore, the wide range of data these devices collect can be directly associated with their design.