Meet Carl Himpsel – Mechanical engineering graduate working in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

we are here in Boulder on East Campus at
the laboratory for atmospheric and space physics we’re gonna talk with carl
himself today carl graduated from see you with mechanical engineering degree
and he now works here at laugh as a mechanical engineer Carl thanks for
joining us we want to hear about your story of becoming an engineer so maybe
you can start off by telling us when did you decide that you wanted to be an
engineer what’s really decision per se there there was no like singular moment
that like ok I’m gonna be an engineer in retrospect you know from sitting here to
all the way back like graduating high school in like oh I’m gonna go on to
college it looks like a very obvious career path
for me it’s like oh you go in yet an engineering degree than your first job
gonna get some experience and then all of a sudden you’re building satellite
parts I was gonna say it was not obvious at any point in the past that this is
where I was going to end up or or it was all going to work out like this I could
see maybe one step ahead and a general direction so i coming out of high school good at math and science like oh you’re
good at math and science you should look at this also liked working with my hands
building stuff taking stuff apart during initial I wanted to do automotive engineering work on cars so I
went to see you started as an open option then moved on to mechanical
figuring that I could do anything needed to an aerospace with mechanical that it
was a very general degree after school went to Detroit and Audi and angle shot
and I heard the the same story in both places you see that building over there
three thousand engineers worked there and I decided that that was not
something I do not want to hang out with three thousand other engineers on a
daily basis that that was that was just too big too much so I ended up not in
the automotive industry ended up in a small start-up company literally as the
third person they’re working out of the garage yet moved on trim from there to a
slightly larger company and spent two years there as well and then and finally moved on to hear and what do
you do here at last so last chemical engineer mostly do the mechanical side
of electrical systems electrical engineers will have their their circuits
and their schematics and eventually got needs to get realized into a circuit
board wiring harness and electronics box something that will hold together and
withstand the rigors the space environment and also getting launched on
iraq it I help them with that you know getting it all lightweight into a very small volume
with the right amount of radiation shielding making sure the heat that
their their electronics dissipate and also that everything is plugged and
plugged into the right spot and stays plugged in so for example one of the
things that we’re working on is this guy known as a rigid flex harness ok so this
is our see the electrical backbone of the because our exes instrument this
connects all the various detectors here the smaller and what the goals are what
this guy is latest series of you ask weather satellites we we have a very
small instrument on there that looks at the Sun and tell us how bright it is in
the extreme ultraviolet and x-ray wavelengths we use that to monitor
what’s known as space weather when there’s the Sun lets out a large solar
flare something we want to know about it here on earth and take actions to make
sure some of our satellite infrastructure doesn’t get damaged to
you built there and it’s going to go on a satellite that’s going to be helping
us detect first launch will be in early 2016 can you tell us a little bit about
what happens generally at left I worked primarily in the engineering division
where we scientists will have a question we need to take this data to help us
answer this question the engineers will come up with an instrument that will
that will take that data and that will go out get the right measurements at the
right cadence the right accuracy so the engineers take that from from a general
question and turn that into a real physical instrument that gets launched
into space once it goes into space that
actually machine operators and sometimes even students that will control the
satellite keep everything pointed where it should solar panels pointed at the
sun communication system pointed out or science instruments pointing out
whatever they want to look at and you know uplink commands downlink data that
sort of thing they don’t think that data that goes back to the scientists and
hopefully they have their questions answered and most likely a whole host of
new questions though it sounds like you work on mechanical engineering issues aerospace facility what type of problems
do you solve hear a lot of problems are solved here are are sort of specific to
the aerospace industry but they use a lot of general engineering principles
general science physical principles that you would learn in any engineering
discipline mechanical electrical even civil or environmental will cover some
of these basic things you did your core classes Tomo management is big deal they
moving heat from the Sun you’re gonna very hot looking at space you’re gonna
get very cold making sure that you’re in you’re right operational temperature
range so a lot of stress analysis problems when you’re going up on a
rocket things are shaking and it’s really noisy and and your instruments
might bend or break if they’re not stiff enough or strong enough electrical
problems often working in conjunction with electrical engineers is is getting
power where it needs to go doing the things it needs to do and then
when it gets turned up the heat in the heat away mechanics as as you go up on the rocket
you have to vent all your gas the air from your space craft so that it doesn’t
blow up like a balloon then literally blow up what people do you help
immediately I hope the scientist’s help them get the data they need known
accuracy know and cadence rescissions more generally it’s it’s the general
public as a whole is in particular with the Texas Instruments and operational
instrument so it’s not a just a science instrument goes out to take some
readings and and we go back in the lab it’s it’s used every day all day to
monitor space weather and people will will use those
predictions to make major decisions on things like flying satellites are flying
airplanes managing power grids managing precision agriculture things like that
how do you use what you learned in college at see you in your current one
of the basic principles come back like I was saying no thermal management you
know electrical power lots of stress analysis lot of material properties is
material science is quite important is what you know sometimes you want me to
roll that electrically conducting but thermally insulating but yet also really
like light and strong sometimes you want something that will have no thermal
expansion as it gets hot and cold air sometimes you want something that will
expand a lot and what about what you do now didn’t exist when your student their
number of things I think the the major development in aerospace these days is
now sets also known as CubeSat you can go out and buy entire subsystems they
used to be multi-year custom developments big dollars now you you go
online you type in a credit card number and a couple weeks later your attitude
control system shows up or your solar panel show up and you bought it all
together you still have to do a lot of work the
system integration level making them all talk to each other and play nicely with
each other but you can get into space these days for you know a hundred
thousand 2 $1,000,000 and and actually do real things real science with with
these small satellites and through the material that are different sides of the
material it’s more the packaging in the level of development it’s it’s their
their stock literally off the shelf type things they’re not just making one of
them they’re going to be making twenty years thirty of them and they’re the
same each time you can go next year and ordered the same park likely almost like
you’re ordering something off of Amazon and a lot less expensive much less
expensive than than the old way of doing things which was like a full custom
development is he cute start like ok what are the quirements for this specific mission and
we’re gonna Taylor everything so that’s absolutely optimized and you know it
will be a big cost plus contract where it costs what it costs and nobody really
cares about that here it’s it’s this is the datasheet this is what it costs you
know sent us a credit card and we’ll send you the partner male how do you and
your job budgeting is simple budgeting for all
sorts of things both in dollars but also bass budgets you know the entire system
can only way this much how does that break down into subsystems yeah this can
only way so many kilograms so on power budgets solar panels are going to
generate this much power you know who’s gonna get a witch subsystems are you use
what amounts of power so many factors so many somebody walks to the heaters and
so on volume budgets where we’ve got this much
stuff to fit and we’ve got this space to fit it in you know how much does each
think dick there’s also much more complicated math it’s not just a simple
excel sheet so data analysis sometimes you’ll you’ll run an experiment on a
prototype of part you’ll have a bunch of data points what is the data really
saying what can you conclusively prove from the data there’s quite a bit of
looking at and interpreting charts graphs charge data you know numerically
interpreting them weaker pits and so on but also shouldn’t be surely looking at
data and being able to say yes you know that that’s my goal is a little blip and
that’s not a big deal but that’s legal over there that’s that’s something
terrifying so for a stress analysis they can get to be to be much more
complicated and at the as you go higher and higher up the instrument level
finding the resonant frequencies of various parts as their as they’re
getting shaken on the rocket remember those famous video of the name of the
bridge but it’s at a certain frequency in the wind its just started shaking all
over the place it’s calculating what that frequency is for satellite
components and making sure they don’t match up with something that your
rockets gonna be driving what is the coolest thing to do in your
job to get some stuff into space design and build and touch things that are
going to be on orbit in space so there’s there’s you know a little bit of a I’m
gonna say a dreamy aspect to it where where I mean it’s the final frontier
where they retract your you grew up with sci-fi novels or something like that there there’s it’s it’s the next best
thing to actually being an astronaut do you think you really excited about
faith but you didn’t study aerospace engineering so she looked at a number of
different industries if I wasn’t doing this I would be doing utility-scale
solar energy was not replaced I was looking at they both happen to be hiring
I happen to get a job here so that really just came down to that there
wasn’t a grand plan I want to be an aerospace engineer and this is the
ladder to climb up to get there it was this kinda looks cool yeah these people
seem like good people that I’d like to work with they seem to be doing
interesting stuff and they have interesting stuff for me to do what sign
on with this for a little bit and i dont i dont know that I’m going to be in here
for the rest of my career the aerospace industry is notoriously
cyclic when it’s up it’s everybody’s making money making satellites having a
great time and when it’s down its down and nobody’s working so I may move on to
another industry after this fact I’d say to the students these days sometimes you
get a job just to know that that’s not what you want to do is go to try it out worked there for a few months and if it
doesn’t work out and the absolutely hate it quit and that’s a valuable learning
yeah and just and chalk it up to experience I
imagine your work requires collaboration with lots of different kinds of people
can you give us an example some of the people that you work immediately at work
with lots of Electrical Engineers is there’s a lot of back and forth with
with designing the circuit boards from the electrical like there’s we need more
and more space we need more room for traces we need more more chips on the
circuit board but then you have to come back and mechanical I don’t know I don’t
really have that much space will what if we move this over here that goes back
and forth on a daily basis figuring out how to how to make it work
both from the electrical side and mechanical side also work with quite a
few non-technical people the scheduling people they gotta know like this was
really taking a long time you know what is this going downstream are all of
sudden we pushing out a launch date no we maybe we need to add more resources
to this problem accounting and budgeting that you know
this is well this is what we think it’s going to cause well this is how much
money we have making that work also with the university you know procurement
travel there’s there’s a number of people that in the system so to speak
for you just have to make it work configuration management making sure
that what you do is documented and that you know that the part you said your
gonna build is the part that’s actually in the spacecraft going up on there
there’s some spectacular failures that way can you tell us about a time in your
education are your career where you weren’t successful or maybe failed at
something yeah there’s there’s a few examples I’ve tendency to to you know
what to over analyze a problem get a really perfect result in a really
complicated equation to describe something and what ended up happening as
I wasted a lot of time and got nowhere just did the numbers did not add up and
he had what I learned from that is that sometimes you have to recognize early
when instead of going through a problem and solving it you need to find a way
around the problem you need to find a way yes some way that more or less
solves the greater problem that you were chat with us and maybe you know attack
this particular smaller individual problems what was your favorite
experience as a student at the you definitely the Formula SAE program I was
it was wonderful program you took a 600 Cece motorcycle engine and you built a
race car around it you went to Detroit and you raced
against a hundred and forty other schools from around the world and it it
was in a number of different competitions from you know performance
but also you know cost what would it cost to build how good is and you have
your design reviewed by professional automotive engineers it was an amazing
experience where you learn by doing you raised all your own money you and
you actually had to build the thing it was was engineering and practice and
that’s where where you really learn how to be an engineer what do you wish
someone would have told you when you are in college so something actually
somebody did tell me and that I found very valuable is that all of engineering
school is really a gigantic prerequisite for becoming an engineer is it is and
it’s not it’s not even like one point where all the stamp you on the forehead
you are now an engineer in the legal sense yes you take the fundamentalism
engineering work seven years in practice and then you take the Professional
Engineering exam then from the you know the state of Colorado or wherever would
then stamp you an engineer and literally you get a stamp but in in a more and
more practical sense is it is a lifelong thing is engineering school will teach
you the fundamentals but you have to go out there and do it and practice
engineering go out build something create something and
that’s where you learn you know the practice of engineering how it actually
happens to save its theoretical or or fake thing and engineering school but
it’s it’s once you hit the real world and you start running into real-world
problems a number of things crop up that you just can’t teach and lecture so besides engineering what do you do
for fun Colorado outdoor lifestyle hiking skiing
snowshoeing road bicycle mountain biking just any sort of outdoor sports out
there is a great place to be out here it’s great place to live in the woods
thank you so much for talking with us logo thank you