Engineering Star Wars Fans

February 9, 2016 | Author: David Timothy

A few years ago I was working on a video shoot with one of our engineers named Kyle Davis. I came to learn that he was quite the Star Wars fan and was excited about the announcement of the sequels. I asked whether or not he was worried if they would be bad and his answer surprised me. He said “…I am just glad that they are making more.” I adopted Kyle’s outlook on the expanded franchise and eagerly awaited the premiere.

I was recently able to reconnect with Kyle (suspiciously close to Kylo) and we exchanged our thoughts and theories about the new film. I also came to learn where Kyle’s fandom began and how it influenced his career in engineering. It was so fascinating that I asked Kyle to help me write it up to share. Here is his story.

What was your first Star Wars Experience?

I remember watching some cartoons as a child and kept seeing references to a bad-guy in a black helmet or lightsabers. When I asked my folks what the shows were referring to they said ‘Star Wars’! Shortly thereafter we headed down to Blockbuster and rented the entire original trilogy, watching one each night. I still remember being stunned when it was revealed that Vader was Luke’s father. Thankfully that spoiler had been kept from me. I also remember seeing a tour at the Smithsonian called ‘Star Wars: The Magic of Myth’. They had various costumes and models used in the films and it was great to see things up close.

TFEWhat about the movies influenced your engineering career?

Phantom Menace came out in 1999, but even before that there were plenty of Star Wars related games and toys out on the market. I remember getting two books back then, the ‘Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels’ and ‘Incredible Cross Sections’. Both of these books tried to flesh out the engineering and science behind the tech you would see in the films. I spent hours looking through those books, visualizing how an AT-AT could walk, or how an X-wing could fly. Even when dealing with such science fiction, the movies encouraged me to investigate the inner workings of complex things. I have a few cutaways of various turbine engines that Honeywell produces (or the aircraft they are installed in) and they take me back to the cross-section books I read as a kid.

What design would you like to re-engineer based on your experience?

I’d really like to redesign the TIE-Fighter. They are mass produced and such an iconic symbol that it would be fun to put my own spin on them.

What changes would you make?

Unfortunately the biggest change I would make is arguably the most recognizable part of their design, the big hexagonal panels/wings on the side. They are theoretically there to act as solar panels and provide some shielding to the pilot from laser blasts. That’s all well and good in space, since there is no air to create drag, but the minute those fighters go into a planet’s atmosphere those big panels would make maneuvering very difficult. Comparatively, the X-Wing is much more aerodynamic. I would take the existing panels and turn them on their sides. I’d also alter the shape of them from a flat sheet to more of an airfoil. This would help the TIE-fighter to conserve fuel while in atmosphere. Structurally speaking it would also lower the forces on the struts. You could likely decrease the amount of material in that area, saving on weight and cost. 

TIE Fighter Redesign

What design elements make it so fascinating?

Designing something that can function in atmosphere and in space presents a world of challenges. Differences in exposure to cosmic radiation, wild temperature swings, ability to withstand the heat of atmospheric re-entry, and ability to overcome gravity are just a few of these. Not to mention that any spacecraft, especially for the Empire’s military, would need to be inexpensive, quick to manufacture, reliable, and easy to repair. These are all things that Honeywell engineers deal with during every product design.

Do you have an original idea you would like to submit to the movie creators?

I’d like to see the Star Wars equivalent of a HALO drop (high altitude, low opening). Deploying storm troopers, or Republic fighters, from space directly to the ground without a landing shuttle. It would be less efficient but would look great.

What Star Wars quality can you attribute to a career in engineering?

Creativity. One of the many constants in the field of engineering is that no matter how much you plan ahead, things can (and often do) go wrong, so the ability to think creatively and outside the box is critical to success. Much like a young Anakin building a Podracer from scrap parts, or Rey and Han fixing the Millennium Falcon on the fly, you need to be able to make use of what you have in order to overcome obstacles and meet your goals. 

David Timothy

David Timothy

David Timothy is a Senior Specialist for the digital marketing team at Honeywell Aerospace. He specializes in all things digital with extensive experience in design, branding, marketing automation and web development.

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