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Arnold engineers discuss what it means to be an engineer
Date: February 12, 2018
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. – At the heart of what goes on at AEDC are engineers.
Engineers oversee the testing, conduct the research and complete the maintenance necessary for AEDC to accomplish its mission. Now, it's time to celebrate the impact these men and women and other engineers have on the world around them.
National Engineers Week kicked off on Feb. 18 and continues through Feb. 24. This celebration of all things engineering was started in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers and, according to that organization's website, as a way to raise public awareness of engineers' positive contributions to quality of life and to promote recognition among parents, teachers and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science and technology literacy while motivating youth to pursue engineering careers.
The National Engineers Week theme this year is "Engineers: Inspiring Wonder." Those at Arnold Air Force Base have done their part to foster fascination in young minds, as National Engineers Week happenings around Arnold are scheduled to include a Student Design Competition and an Engineer for a Day event for high schoolers.
From those who have spent decades in the field to those whose engineering careers are just beginning, engineers across Arnold have their own perspective on what inspired them to wonder and what it means to be an engineer.
Gary Knox describes himself as a "lifetime learner" and "do it yourselfer." His interest in science, math, and reading technical books, ironically enough, piqued while growing up on a full-time farm.
"It appeared that engineering combined my interests and gave me an opportunity to use my God-given talents," Knox said.
Knox retired from AEDC on Feb. 2 following a 37-year engineering career at Arnold AFB. Knox said his choice of vocation not only allowed him to take care of his family, it gave him the opportunity to bring his expertise and skills to a number of projects, including the testing of large engines for commercial planes and engines for fighter aircraft.
"An engineer is someone that strives to make the world a better place by applying scientific principles to technical challenges," Knox said. "It is an opportunity to leave things in a better condition than one found them. Technology in and of itself is neither good nor bad, but rather it is the application of it that makes the difference. The engineering field covers a broad scope of disciplines and applications such that the sky – even outer space – is the limit.
"Engineering is an interesting career because one can learn something new every single day. I have frequently said that if I didn't learn something new, then I might not be back the next day. After 37 years at AEDC, and 45-plus years since I started studying engineering in college, I am still learning new things each day."
Knox earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee Technological University in May 1978. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Knox co-oped two years with du Pont at the Savannah River Plant and Laboratory, a government nuclear facility in Aiken, South Carolina.
"The reason I co-oped during my undergraduate work was to ensure that I truly did enjoy engineering," Knox said, "and I found that I definitely did."
Knox received his master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in March 1981. He has also taken several short courses at the University of Tennessee Space Institute and elsewhere.
Knox was hired at Arnold on Jan. 12, 1981. For the first 12 years of his tenure, he was a plant operations and system engineer in the Engine Test Facility.
From March 1993 until August 2000, Knox was a test operations engineer in the ETF, primarily serving as the lead test operations engineer for the Aeropropulsion System Test Facility C-2 test cell. Afterwards and until February 2007, Knox was a test operations engineer in the Propulsion Wind Tunnel.
From 2007 up to his recent retirement, Knox served as the technical advisor for the Aeropropulsion Plant, working with and mentoring Plant System engineers and Plant Operations engineers. He also served on many capital project, plant maintenance and Service Life Extension Program/Facility Acquisition for Restoration and Modernization teams.
Knox said that during his career he was "fortunate" to be able to work at ASTF from mid-construction through activation, as well as during the subsequent customer testing. As an ETF plant and test operations engineer, he was involved in the testing of large commercial turbine engines in the C-2 test cell. This included 12 Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines and the first Rolls Royce Trent 800 engine, all of which were used to power the Boeing 777 commercial aircraft.
Knox also worked on numerous military engine tests in the ETF, primarily the F119 engine for the F22 Raptor and the F135 engine for the F35 Lightning. In PWT Flight Systems, he was involved in numerous tests, including many Joint Strike Fighter F35 tests. He said the most interesting test with which he was involved in PWT was a JASSM-ER cruise missile test that occurred in 2005.
With his AEDC career now behind him, Knox said the engineering skills and experience he honed at Arnold will continue to serve him well in the next phase of his life, be it vehicle work or home repair.
"I often find that my engineering knowledge and understanding and troubleshooting skills come in handy," he said.
As Knox's tenure at AEDC was winding down, the engineering careers of both Dr. Kristin Rice and Daniel Ogg were just getting underway.
Dr. Kristin Rice
Rice is currently a research aerospace engineer with the Air Force Research Laboratory's High Speed System Division, Hypersonic Sciences Branch. There, she works to develop low-power optical diagnostics for high-speed aero and combustion applications for hypersonic air-breathing engines.
Rice has been at AEDC for three years. She spent her first year here as a post-doctoral researcher with the National Research Council and the past two years as a civilian with AFRL. She earned her Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering from Syracuse University in 2009 and a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia in 2014.
It was an early affinity for mathematics and, later, an interest in physics and the general desire of wanting to know "how things worked" that led Rice to pursue a career in engineering, as she said engineering represented the most logical intersection of math and physics. She described her choice of vocation as "a great fit."
"I think one of the best parts about being an engineer is that you get to work with people of all different professions, such as fellow engineers of different disciplines like electrical, mechanical and civil, technicians, craft personnel, designers, and scientists, to name a few," she said.
During her stint at AEDC, Rice has had the opportunity to work on projects of a variety of scales, from laboratory benchtops, to research cells and, most recently, in test cells. She said the measurement challenges encountered at each of these scales varies widely and each case requires a different solution.
"To me, being an engineer means being a problem-solver," she said. "In my particular field, the problem at hand is usually that traditional ways of measuring something, temperature, for example, are not possible due to how harsh the environment is. As an engineer, I work to develop new measurement techniques which can be applied in high-speed environments."
Ogg has been at AEDC for two years, having previously spent more than three years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base before transitioning here. He is currently a research mechanical engineer within the AFRL High Speed Division, High Speed Experimentation Branch. At Wright-Patterson AFB, he worked as a research aerospace engineer in the AFRL Turbine Engine Division, Fan & Compressor Experimentation Branch.
"I don't think it's a secret that engineers love solving problems, whether it's a technical problem or not," Ogg said. "But, in addition to being good problem-solvers, being an engineer, to me, means having the opportunity to create something entirely new – a new feature on an aerospace vehicle, a new way to go about obtaining necessary data, a new process for technology development. We have the opportunity to discover new and exciting ways to do things and are constantly learning."
Ogg received his Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2013. He pursed his master's degree while working at Wright-Patterson and earned his Master of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Dayton in late 2015.
For Ogg, engineering runs in the family. His father was an aerospace engineer. Because of this, Ogg said he was "well-surrounded" by all things aerospace as he was growing up and quickly became immersed in the engineering world at a young age.
"I thoroughly enjoyed all things flight-related, gravitated towards math/science interests in school, and knew that I wanted to pursue aerospace engineering as well," he said. "However, my job at Wright-Patterson AFB focused heavily on the aeromechanics of next-generation turbine engine fans and compressors, so an M.S. in mechanical engineering seemed like the proper degree to further my technical understanding of this field."
During his time at Arnold, Ogg has had the opportunity to work on the reactivation of the von Kármán Gas Dynamics Facility Tunnel D, a pressure-vacuum blowdown wind tunnel capable of Mach numbers 1.5 to 5. Ogg has for the past two years served as program manager for this reactivation, leading teams of engineers who have worked to bring the tunnel that has been dormant for 40 years back online.
Being an engineer has meant different things at different points in Jonathan Kodman's life.
"Once, it was a good long-term career path with an above average starting salary," Kodman said. "Currently, it's interesting work which I enjoy."
Kodman began his career at AEDC in June 2007. Over that time, he has worked in several areas. He began his AEDC career in the von Kármán Gas Dynamics Facility wind tunnels conducting testing. Afterwards, he spent five years in aeropropulsion testing engines in the J-1, J-2, C-1, C-2 and T-4 test cells. Kodman then went on to work as a test/facility operations engineer in the High Temperature Laboratory.
He is currently a project engineer in the Space and Missiles group.
Kodman didn't exactly follow in his father's footsteps, but he did follow the same path.
"My dad was a chemical engineer, which pushed me in the general direction of engineering as well," Kodman said.
This, along with a proficiency in math and science, led Kodman to pursue his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Tech University. After working at Arnold for five years, he earned his Professional Engineer's license.
Kodman said his time at Arnold has provided him with a sense of professional fulfillment.
"I am very proud of all the testing I have done here at Arnold," Kodman said. "I spent months working development testing of the F136. I was a part of the final two test projects in T4 before it was mothballed. I've been a part of multiple commercial engine tests in C-2. The High Temperature Laboratory is very challenging and, thus, very rewarding in its testing."