Marc Spoor, BSGE 1983
For Marc Spoor, the General Engineering degree he earned in 1983 has taken him to Seattle for a career at Boeing Co. He said his degree gave him a set of tools in order to be successful and open to new opportunities, and he encourages other general engineers to look at their degree in the same light.
Spoor began his career at Boeing in 1988 and has worked on a variety of projects since then. Most recently, he has been involved with Boeing’s collaboration with NASA in testing a technology called Active Flow Control (AFC), which aims to provide benefits to future flight vehicle designs.
“For example, an AFC-enabled vertical fin could be made smaller and still provide the same aerodynamic side force,” Spoor explained. “A smaller fin would be lighter, with a smaller drag penalty, and would contribute to lower fuel consumption.”
A full-scale wind tunnel model test with the technology was run by Boeing and NASA in 2013. They are currently preparing for a flight test on the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program’s 757 aircraft to be completed in the first half of 2015.
Spoor described the ecoDemonstrator program as being “focused on accelerating the testing, refinement, and integration of new technologies, methods, and materials to improve aviation’s environmental performance and sustainability.” Using this program speeds up the process of the incorporation of these technologies into new airplane models.
Spoor’s role as project engineer in the AFC project has required him to work with engineers in other areas, coordinate the collective effort toward the project, and provide project updates to Boeing’s partners at NASA. “As issues came up, I’d make sure the right folks were talking to each other to understand the problem and develop a solution that would work to everyone’s satisfaction,” Spoor said. “After a lot of hard work by a whole lot of smart people, we have now finished building all the parts, and they’ve been installed on the ecoDemonstrator.”
Overall, the project aims to give aircraft designers more tools to improve environmental sustainability and performance in future models.
Spoor’s career at Boeing is a testament to the different fields that a degree in GE can lead to. “I have always been interested in aviation, and a job at Boeing was a dream come true,” he said.
He said he loves the variety that comes along with his position. He has been able to work on everything from radar-jamming equipment for the military to systems and components of commercial airplanes. “Now it’s really exciting to work on bleeding-edge technology that will improve future airplanes,” Spoor said.
He said this work also plays a larger part in society; that as society itself becomes more interconnected, those in the field of aviation need to always be looking forward. “To continue to be a viable part of future transportation, the airplane business can never rest,” he said. “We need to continuously improve our products, always striving to give the next generation designs more capability at lower cost and environmental impact.”
With more opportunities ahead of him, Spoor said he appreciates the education that is behind him. He described the ability to have a “big picture perspective” that his degree in GE gave him as great background for his job. “In a complex system of systems like an airplane, pulling on one thing pushes on another, and the right answer comes from an integrated, interdisciplinary approach,” he said.
Looking back at his time at the University, Spoor has fond memories of his Senior Design Project in GE. “That was a great prelude to how a ‘real-world’ project progresses - working with others to define and develop requirements, come up with a design, analyze and test it, and present the results at the end, all the while making sure the customer was happy with the way things were going,” he said.
Now at Boeing, he’s doing the same thing in his project management role. “The ability to understand and relate to a wide variety of people with different skill sets and integrate the whole to achieve the desired end results is a key skill a GE brings to the table,” he said.
With rapid changes constantly occurring in the field of engineering, Spoor advised students hoping to have a similar career to broaden their knowledge. “If at all possible, add project management and finance classes to your coursework,” he said. He stressed the importance of being conversant in finance and skilled in project management as equal to the importance of having technical answers to problems.
As far as getting the most out of a degree in GE, Spoor said the key is to look at it as a set of tools to prepare one to participate in any path they choose. “Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities,” he said. “Don’t let your degree necessarily define your career path.” He emphasized networking and taking advantage of available resources as essential to getting involved in new projects.
But aside from the more objective advice, Spoor said that having a sense of humor in such a serious field can be just as beneficial.
“Don’t forget to have fun and laugh once in a while,” he said. “Find a job you really enjoy, but don’t let you work or your career take over your life. Interesting and involved as it may be, make sure it is a means to many ends, not an end in itself.”