An Engineering Mentor Explains His Career Path

It wasn’t long ago that Ryan Haughey, a loads and dynamics engineer in Melbourne, Florida, was an aerospace engineering student at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). Now, he’s an engineering mentor for students at his alma mater.

Ryan’s career began as an intern, stemming from his student design team experience in 2014. Northrop Grumman sponsors senior design projects at FIT, which gives students an opportunity to present their work to the company’s engineers and receive feedback from industry professionals.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Ryan planned to go on to graduate school. His desire to continue with Northrop Grumman as a full-time employee grew stronger when he learned about becoming an engineering mentor through the EdAssist program, which he’s using to pursue his master’s degree at FIT.

Following is an excerpt from an interview with Ryan that was originally published in FIT’s digital newspaper, eCurrent.

What does a typical day look like?

One of my favorite parts of my job is that there is no typical day. Some days I’ll work with aerodynamics engineers, or the mass properties team, or the structural strength team. My job is interdisciplinary because we have to take into account every aspect of the vehicle. Every day I get to work with a team of smart engineers to develop a solution to a complex problem.

How did you land an internship, and then a job, at Northrop Grumman?

In 2014, I was part of the student design team that took home the Northrop Grumman top award in engineering. I still had one more year of undergraduate school. After the showcase, I approached my adviser and said, “I think we should continue with this project; I think it has a lot of potential.” From there, I presented to a group from Northrop Grumman with a proposal for continued undergraduate research.

During my internship, I enjoyed working for Northrop Grumman so much that I brought up to my manager that I’d like to consider staying on as a full-time employee. After receiving an offer, I was given the opportunity to stay in Melbourne, which would allow me to work full time and continue with my education at FIT toward a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

What is your favorite memory of when you were an undergrad?

I think it has to be the time we were working on our senior design project. We had to figure out how to work as a team, governing ourselves to accomplish a goal. It was a way for us to showcase what we had learned in our time as undergrads, and we all became good friends doing it. Little did I know that during those late nights of testing and designing, I was building my résumé.

How is your grad school experience now that you are working full time?

I will definitely say there is a new appreciation for school after being an engineer in the “real world.” Seeing the practical application of the fundamentals learned in school has given me a new perspective in grad school. I try to draw parallels between what I’m doing at the office and what I’m learning at night.

What did you do your student design project on?

It applied a simple aerodynamic concept where the aspect ratio of an unmanned aerial vehicle’s wings can be manipulated at different flight speeds to lower the drag, increasing the flight time and range it can fly. Our design incorporated composite materials and 3D-printed manufacturing to build a telescoping wing design.

I am now a professional mentor for an undergraduate research team that’s taking the original design and incorporating optimization techniques to build a better design. I’m really impressed with what the team is doing, and I am very proud that the company I work for is supporting this great opportunity for undergraduates to learn and get this type of experience.

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