William Pfouts

Engineering Analysis, Fabrication, and Programming

This was my first project as an Engineer Intern, in July of 2015. I learned quite a bit from this project that I have taken with me through my career

I was tasked by a very small aerospace startup to create an extremely unique solution to a difficult problem. The requirement was to design a vehicle that could carry a prototype up to 2000lbs and 15 feet long, lift it to a fifteen degree angle of attack, accelerate it to approximately 200mph, release it, and then decelerate within the space of a standard runway length.
This was a difficult ask, but one that I was uniquely suited to accomplish. I called on my automotive racing contacts, and contacts in heavy industry for the hydraulics. I was very proud of the final results, which met all requirements, including the aggressive budget requirements.

However, the client then added additional requirements not initially enumerated. The first one of these was the requirement for in-wheel electric motors. This was outside of my expertise, and in 2015 they were extremely difficult to source. As I was contending with this requirement, two more requirements were added: that the vehicle be road legal, and that it also be capable of being remote piloted. I could not argue against these changes, and we parted ways without reaching the full preliminary design review stage.
The startup did not create a prototype of that scale, and closed shop before creating the launch-assist vehicle.

Skills that I learned were how to manage customer expectations, which has been of great use in later projects. I also learned the importance of documentation at all levels of project management. Most importantly I learned to perform extensive client interviews to understand what the client needs, why the client needs it, and whether what they think they need is the best solution to the requirements given.