Design Engineer

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Brett, 25

Brett is an electronics engineer specialising in designing radio and data communications systems. Find out more:

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Fact file

Job description: Brett works for a small company who specialise in designing ways to send information over a distance, often in remote locations. He combines radio communications technology with the latest in data communications.

Subjects studied: Maths (Methods), Maths (Specialist), English, Physics, Graphics, Information Systems

Further training: Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Systems) - 4 Years

Salary: $50,000 to $60,000

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Profile

Brett always wanted to be either an engineer, an industrial designer or an architect. Engineering eventually won because Brett saw that electronics was going to be an increasingly important industry. It also helped that his Dad is an electronics engineer, so he had a pretty good idea of what he would be getting into.

For an industry that has a bit of a, well, geeky image, Brett certainly doesn't fit the mould. This extreme sports lover works for a small company designing products for data communications. Whether software, circuits or circuit boards, Brett is working at the cutting edge of radio communications.

Trio Datacom is contacted by companies from all over the world who have unique challenges in sending data over long distance, often in remote areas. The company looks at the requirements and designs a system that is unique to the situation. Some of the projects Brett has worked on include designing a system that would measure the flow of oil and gas through pipelines in Brazil, without interrupting the flow. He has also has a hand in the design of the freeway signage system that shows motorists how long the estimated travel time is and what traffic congestion is like up ahead.

But perhaps the most unusual project Brett has worked on involved scientists in Antarctica who wanted to count the number of penguins in a colony. Every day, the penguins would walk across a bridge making it easy for the scientists to sit and count them as they passed. The only problem was that when the scientists were there, the penguins stayed away. The solution? Design a remote device that consisted of a light beam the penguins would have to pass through in order to cross the bridge then develop a radio system that would transmit the data back to the scientists, who were then able to count the penguins from the comfort of their warm hut.

While a typical day doesn't involve penguins, it does involve a lot of designing. Depending on the project, Brett either works in a small team or by himself designing a solution and taking the design from prototype to production. Along the way, there are issues to sort out and problems that are uncovered during testing that need to be solved.

Brett is currently working on a project that is just about to enter the production stage. Because the device will be manufactured in China, he spends a lot of time communicating with the manufacturers and will be taking a number of trips to China in the near future.

As well as excellent opportunities for travel, Brett also likes the fact that what he designs can have many applications. And because he works in a small company, there is a lot more opportunity for him to take on additional work that he may not get to do in a larger company, such as CAD (a computer design program) design and developing plastic moulds. He has even put his graphics skills to use and helped design logos for the company.

Sometimes the number crunching can be a bit tedious, but as Brett says: "The great thing about engineering is that you can move into other areas and get away from the real hard core engineering."

Five years into the future, Brett sees himself as having much more responsibility at the project management level, either co-ordinating the design or manufacturing of new products. He would like to remain close to the engineering, but have more of a management role. Trying to look ten years into the future is a bit murkier, however. "The industry is changing so much, who knows where I'll be or what I'll be doing."

One thing is for sure, though. Brett will still be bringing his unique blend of creativity and science into this growing industry.

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Job specs

Electronics engineers design, develop, test and maintain electronic parts and systems used in computers, communications, navigation, industry and entertainment.

Duties

Electronics engineers may perform the following tasks:

  • Design circuits for electronic control systems and instrumentation
  • Prepare and supervise designs, specifications, estimates, tenders and contracts
  • Program and operate computers to assist with complex calculations
  • Work out the type and arrangement of circuit parts and develop testing equipment and methods
  • Work out the type of installation, location, layout and transmission medium by assessing communication traffic and levels of service at installations
  • Work out and monitor performance, safety standards and methods for modification, maintenance and repair
  • Check installations to make sure they meet contract conditions
  • Research new applications of technology
  • Talk to clients, other engineers, technical officers, technicians, tradespeople and other workers

Personal requirements

  • Good at technical things
  • Good leadership skills
  • Able to identify, analyse and solve problems
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Enjoy computing and technical design
  • Practical and creative
  • Able to work independently
  • Able to accept responsibility

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Getting started

Find out more about a career in Design Engineering:

Engineers Australia (Victoria Division)
600 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: 1300 653 113
Email: vic@engineersaustralia.org.au

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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