Today I felt like an actual engineer for the first time in my life. The moment occured sometime after lunch. My duty at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is to help the Pressure Vessels and Systems (PVS) team to collect information on the many pressure systems on lab so that we can certify them after any necessary modifications. More specifically, I am tasked with making component inventories and line drawings of some of the thermal vacuum chambers in the environmental test lab (ETL) and then doing a risk assessment over them. The chambers in ETL qualify as a pressure system due to the pressurized lines carrying nitrogen in and out of the chamber.
I managed to snag this pic of one of the smaller chambers on my way out of work.
So far I’ve completed the line drawings and basic component inventories but honestly…I was a bit disappointed by what I was doing. It felt like busy work in a way. The engineer that I worked with even said that I was gonna have a really boring summer. I didn’t care much though. I was just happy to be there. That was until today. Today I did my first true analysis of the system. The task was pretty simple. I had to apply a set of equations to some of the data I gathered on a regulator (a valve that regulates pressure) and a relief valve (a valve that has a set pressure at which it “pops” open in order to relieve said pressure). The only thing I really did was check to see if the relief valve would be able to handle the highest flow rate generated by the regulator in the event of a failure. At first I thought it was going to be difficult but as I learned more and more about the analysis I became more intrigued by the system overall. I began to feel more confident in myself. I ran the equations and checked over them a couple of times and determined that the valve would be suitable for the job. As I set there ironing out further details and thinking about what to do next, I thought to myself, “Holy crap, I just did an engineering problem…and it actually has to do with a physical system!” For the first time ever I applied equations to a real life situation and got a solid answer! It may have been only an analysis and one that took only about half an hour but…I felt good. It didn’t seem like meaningless work. In addition, it made me realize that the stuff I learn in school really does matter in the long run. It also made me anxious for junior year when I’ll have my first batch of engineering courses. Haha, I honestly never thought that I would become this excited over looking at a valve that’s no bigger than my hand! I can’t wait for tomorrow! :D