When we talk about Engineers, we can mean many things. Both auto and aero engineering appeal to a wide cross-section of people who want to be at the forefront of technology and science. In Britain we have a distinguished history in aeronautical engineering, with around six hundred companies working in the aerospace industry. When it comes to the automotive industry, over 300,000 people in the UK are employed in design, development and manufacturing.
You’ll find a very high concentration of aero and auto engineering based undergraduate degree courses in the UK – many with international reputations. Students can also go on to do post grad work at many institutions. At a lower level, vocational training can be found up and down the country. The option of a one year placement in industry is available with most university degree courses, and most students choose to take this between the second and final year.
Sandwich courses can also be available on certain training programmes. There are opportunities for some students to get sponsored whilst at university. This also usually means a work placement afterwards. With so many variables open to you, it’s a good idea to really research everything that’s on offer.
All cars, bikes, coaches and heavy goods vehicles come under the remit of auto engineering. Today’s auto engineers need to understand electronic and software engineering as well as mechanical and electrical. Modern vehicle engineers can utilise the latest technologies – for example in relation to electric cars or active suspensions.
Generally speaking, we can separate the automotive engineering processes into three distinct fields. Designers are not only responsible for the automotive design, but also for testing each component part. Next come the development engineers. They are concerned with the interactions of all the systems.
Designers sometimes need developers to specify criteria for their designs. Working out how to actually assemble and produce the vehicle is the manufacturing engineers’ job.
Students will find their training is both extensive and intense. Amongst other subjects, you will be taught about aerodynamics, performance, emissions and vehicle dynamics. Safety engineering is one of the most important disciplines for the automotive engineer, and students will learn how assessments are carried out with various methods and tools.
Design engineers test individual components, but they must also be tested to prove synchronicity with the vehicle as a whole. And so training must include elements of development engineering. Sometimes opposing requirements have to be taken through a trade-off process, to ensure each system doesn’t compromise another. Finally the development engineer has to conduct tests on the full vehicle, such as level testing, validation and certification.
The process is ready for the manufacturing engineers once all the product design and development work has been done. Parts have to be assembled, (usually in separate plants) and vehicles built to the exacting standards of the manufacturing engineers. Safety procedures have to be applied to every stage of manufacture – from design of equipment and layout of people, to machine and line rates and all automated tasks.
We think of aeronautical engineering as the science of aircraft, but it also embraces space technology and missiles. Students who train as aeronautical engineers would be preparing themselves for a career in the aerospace industry -a most interesting industry at the forefront of science and technological developments. As an aside – Formula One racing cars share a common technological base with modern airliners.
Many severe conditions have to be endured for an aircraft to fly safely, with immense structural loads being placed upon them. Consequently the building of an aircraft will take many engineering disciplines and aeronautical engineers will all deal in specialist technologies.
Aeronautical engineering students will be taught design principles throughout their training, and receive a thorough insight into analytical subjects. Lectures will be given on subjects such as fluid mechanics, with laboratory sessions to back them up. Study is divided into theoretical mathematical elements and empirical testing – much of which is done by computerised simulations in commercial environments. (Students though will still carry out wind tunnel tests, and engage in experiments using jet engines).
Applying yourself to practical applications is an important engineering principle. Degree course students will have a practical group assignment at some stage to design their own functional vehicle. Undergraduate engineering training programmes also provide other useful skill-sets for their students. Such areas as time-management, writing skills and presenting can all help at interview.
Highly skilled engineering professionals can pursue a variety of extremely rewarding career opportunities that involve leading-edge technology.
Completing an accredited engineering degree course will allow you to obtain the status of a professional Incorporated Engineer or Chartered Engineer.