Engineering: Spotlight on Willie Klassen
Engineers design and make many of the objects around us. Willie Klassen is an engineer who works at Schilling Robotics. Learn more about how Willie became an engineer, some of his favorite things about engineering, and what you can do if you are interested in a career in engineering.
Underwater Robotic Submarines
Willie helps build robotic submarines that are used in the ocean. They can be used for offshore oil exploration, salvage work, and even ocean wind farms. If you’ve seen the movie Titanic, you might remember seeing a robotic submarine used at the beginning of the film. That is not just a movie prop — submarines like that are what Willie works on.
Questions and Solutions
Science starts with a question, and here is an interesting question that Willie has worked on: how do you build an umbilical cable that is 11 kilometers long to support a robotic submarine? Some of the things an engineer needs to consider to answer this question include, what material will stand up to ocean currents? How will we prevent corrosion? Willie has earned patents for designing brand new solutions to engineering problems.
Failure is Okay
When a project goes wrong, Willie sees an opportunity to do some investigation and improvement. Sometimes, people might bring him a broken part, and Willie takes a close look to see what happened. This is a useful way to learn about why it failed, and design a better solution. It can be fun to solve a science mystery and create a new solution.
From Art to Engineering
Although he enjoyed science, it was not always Willie’s plan to become an engineer. During college, he first studied art, but added math and engineering and completed his degree in mechanical engineering. If you like tinkering and solving problems, you might enjoy engineering work. Willie noticed that he learned things better when he used his knowledge in hands-on projects, such as designing and building a human-powered vehicle for a nationwide competition. Clubs and collaboration are excellent ways for students to gain experience.
We appreciate Willie taking time to talk with us about his engineering work! He gave us some great advice about tinkering, using science to solve problems, and using failure as an opportunity to learn more. Thank you, Willie!