View Full Version : An aeronautics engineer/physicist trapped in a crumbling building.

07-28-2018, 12:16 PM
I'm at a point in a story where my MC who, let's say, is an engineer with NASA and also has a strong physics back ground, is in a building that's been damaged and might be on the verge of collapse (power is out, emergency lights on, some halls have caved in, some doors are now inaccessible due to shifted/damage door-frames). How much would my MC's career help them in this situation? Would they be able to make educated guesses at which halls/doors might be safe based on the structural appearance?

07-28-2018, 12:37 PM
Hard to say, I worked with an aerospace engineer when I was in a civil rescue unit and he didn't really have much more knowledge about non-aerospace stuff than pretty much anyone else. (A lot of their specialty would be in airflow) Although he did know about how weird balancing things such as Larkin Rescue frames kept from tipping over.

A civil engineer is what you would need for building collapse. Maybe he did a few units of civil engineering before switching over?

Al X.
07-28-2018, 06:45 PM
For the most part aerospace engineering is a specialized field of mechanical engineering, and those that work as an aerospace engineer (or as an ME) tend to work in a compartmentalized field their whole career. Airframes, hydraulics, systems, motors, etc... most of which won't apply to building structures.

I agree a CE would be useful, but specifically a structural, or a civil with a structural background. But, the forensics engineering required to mitigate a failing building will take a lot more than looking and guessing, even for the same structural that designed the building.

07-28-2018, 07:04 PM
Engineers of all stripes can end up project managing the construction of buildings and said buildings can end up being Frankenstein monstrosities that change and are added onto to basically make shit work now, like yesterday! :) They could end up actually being the only one who even knows how a specific building is still standing in the right scenario. Seems unlikely at a behemoth like NASA though, or if it's just some random building they happened to be in.

07-29-2018, 09:56 PM
I have a friend who's more like a civil engineer. She's the sort of engineer who approves the architect's plans to confirm that the building or bridge won't fall down if it's built the way they say it will be built on paper.

I used to work for the Engineering department of a major city (in a secretarial capacity). Most of our stuff was roads. We worked closely with Transportation/Public Works, though, for things like bridges, highway improvements, tollroad projects, Capital Improvements Projects, things like that.

One NASA engineer I know used to be a nuclear engineer for the Navy, then was a nuclear engineer in civilian life, then went and got his MA/PhD in aerospace engineering. He works with space radiation analysis. Pretty much everyone else in his area is an MD, but the skills he relies on are more in terms of things like pattern recognition and SuperMath.

I know maybe three or four other NASA engineers in my circle-o'-friends, but I haven't talked shop with them as to what they do with their day jobs. I only know them by their hobbies.

But when I think NASA engineer, I think "math", perhaps because JSC is what I think of when I think of NASA. Someone who's based out of Kennedy would have a different skillset than someone who's based out of White Sands. Someone who's at JPL is likely to have a different skillset than someone who's at AFRC.