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Meet: Phillip Luan


Mechanical Engineer,
Ames Research Center

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I'm an instrument engineer who calibrates balances for wind tunnel tests. A balance is a strain gaged device that outputs electrical signals proportional to applied forces. Balances tell engineers how much lift, drag, pitch, side force, yaw, and roll a wind tunnel model experiences. I help in relating the magnitude of the electrical signals to the applied force, or balance calibration. Some skills that are important in my job are math, engineering, and problem solving. My goal is to improve the balance calibration process. I also enjoy learning how a large center like Ames operates and how everyone's role contributes.

I was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States at an early age with my family. We settled in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is a great place to grow up. In grade school I joined math clubs, went to science competitions, and had a great chemistry teacher who showed me that the world is made of atoms. Growing up, I enjoyed playing tennis, skateboarding, and especially basketball. When inside, I made gliders and castles out of paper and wood. I also loved to take things apart to see how they worked. Unfortunately for my parents, I could not always put them back together. "What? The VCR is acting up. Don't worry, I'll fix it!" usually ended up two weeks later as "Mom, I think we need a new VCR." One major reason I became an engineer was to build and fix things, maybe to make up for things I could not get back together as a kid.

I came out to the West Coast to attend college at the University of California in Berkeley and decided to major in Mechanical Engineering. For the next four years, I spent hours studying, working on projects, and meeting new friends.

I chose to become an engineer to learn about the physical world around me. Engineering can be fun and absorbing, but I think becoming an engineer is only the beginning of your career. Engineering is a ladder to reach your goals. As a kid you dream a lot of dreams. As a student you learn the rules of math and physics, but that's just the nuts and bolts of engineering. It's easy to get lost in numbers and equations. Engineering can be a tool to express yourself, achieve your goals, and to construct your dreams into reality. That's when the real fun and excitement begins.

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