What would a math-hater do at a career guidance session on engineering? Catch some z’s, of course!
But you can’t sleep when someone from NASA is conducting an “earth-shaking” session on aerospace engineering, can you? Space science has always been a source of fascination for curious minds.
When I was told Hibah Rahmani, an Avionics and Flight Controls engineer at NASA, was coming to conduct a session at Lincoln Corner, I got really excited. NASA was really a wow factor so I decided to attend the session even though engineering isn’t my cup of tea.
Students from various engineering universities in Karachi were present at the session to listen to Hibah’s inspirational tale on how she made it to NASA and what her current responsibilities are at the Kennedy Space Station. While talking about the field of aeronautical engineering, she encouraged students to explore new and exciting fields in engineering.
A glimpse into the session
Hibah shared her career trajectory with the audience, “Being fascinated with the beautiful night sky, I developed a passion for science, space and astronomy at a very young age. Math and science were my favourite subjects in school and by the time I was in eighth grade, I knew that I wanted to become an engineer. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, with Honors in the major from the University of Central Florida.
“After graduation, I accepted a position with The Boeing Company as a Systems Engineer working on the International Space Station processing at Kennedy Space Center. While working full-time for Boeing, I earned a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Tech and kept looking for jobs a NASA.
“After working for seven years at Boeing, I accepted a position with NASA as an Avionics and Flight Controls Engineer. Currently, I work in the Avionics Division of the Engineering and Technology Directorate. I am part of the Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELV) Avionics Branch, where I support the NASA Launch Services Program, working on ELVs such as Pegasus and Falcon 9. I provide technical expertise, follow launch vehicle testing, perform data reviews and provide technical assessments of engineering issues.”
Hard work - key to success
Hibah believes one can achieve anything with consistent hard work. She shared her experience, “After completing high school in Kuwait, I moved to the USA in 1997 to pursue a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from University of Central Florida. This was my first time away from my family and I had to learn quickly how to live by myself. Even cooking and doing laundry was a struggle.
I remember physics being my first challenging class and I just got an F in my first exam. I didn’t let my failure stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming an engineer; I focused all my energies and worked really hard. I went to the library and spent hours there, reading physics books and practicing problems. When time came for the final exam, I calculated that I needed to get exactly a 100% on the exam to get an A in the class. When I got my graded exam back, I could not believe that I received a 105% on the exam - I even got the 5 point bonus question right! This experience re-emphasized to me that anything is possible with consistent hard work and dedication, and to never give up and stay focused on your goals and dreams.”
Before you start exploring things on your own, make sure you know the difference between other related fields as well. For example, you will see people using terms aeronautical, astronautical, astrophysics and aerospace interchangeably. Fields are obviously related because they all depend on the basic principles of physics, but in the industry they are dealt as separate areas of expertise.
Aerospace engineering is the primary field of engineering concerned with the development of aircraft and spacecraft. It has two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering.
Aeronautical engineers work with aircraft. They are involved primarily in designing aircraft and propulsion systems and in studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and construction materials. They work with the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the Earth’s atmosphere.
Astronautical engineers work with the science and technology of spacecraft, and how they perform inside and outside the Earth’s atmosphere. This includes work on satellites.
Avionics engineering is similar, but deals with the electronic side of aerospace engineering and comes under Aeronautical Engineering. The term avionics is a combination of the words aviation and electronics. The core areas of study include electronics, aviation systems, communications, microwave, radar, antenna, guidance, navigation, and controls.
Another subject that is commonly mentioned along with aerospace science is astrophysics. It’s the branch the branch of astronomy concerned with the physical nature of stars and other celestial bodies, and the application of the laws and theories of physics to the interpretation of astronomical observations.
You can study aerospace engineering at various engineering universities in Pakistan. College of Aeronautical Engineering, NUST and Institute of Space Technology offer a Bachelor degree in Avionics Engineering; Institute of Space Science and Technology, University of Karachi offers Bachelors and Masters Degree in Space Science and Technology.