Meet the mechanical engineer: Navid Khordehgah, creating that which has never been


June 22, 2018

Navid Khordehgah at Denham Aerodrome

What’s your current role?

I am a researcher at Brunel University London. My research is focused on developing energy-efficient and sustainable technologies in mechanical and aerospace engineering, to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.

In my final year at university, I was awarded the Excellence and Innovation in Design and Engineering prize by Airbus for a project that formed part of my dissertation. I investigated ways to reduce the drag on wings caused by turbulent airflows, which slow aircraft and make them less efficient. I won my award for designing a device that would increase airflows and reduce drag. I used computer modelling to evaluate its performance then built an actual model and tested it in a wind tunnel. My device increased airflow over the wing by almost 17% – that could potentially have a big impact on fuel use  (big jets use about 800 litres of fuel every kilometre) and reduce a plane’s carbon footprint.

How did you end up in your current role?

After a year of AS-levels, I enrolled on a BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering, which due to its practical approach was best suited to my way of studying. I really didn’t like doing exams during my A-levels, as I found them very hard to ace and saw them as a memory game. However, the main problem was that I could not understand how I could make use of my A-level subjects.

The BTEC gave me an opportunity to learn engineering through practical and research means, and enabled me to demonstrate my knowledge by conducting research and doing assignments on engineering topics, based on ‘learning-by-doing’.

I really enjoyed the practical maths- and physics-based units, because I learnt that every engineering problem can be solved by using these. For instance, I designed and made a rail scooter body for Network Rail, which can carry one person and be foldable. I enjoyed every aspect of making and designing this project as maths and physics were part of everything from using design software, choosing the material to be used, and calculating the pressure on the joints and bolts. Undertaking this project developed my creative problem-solving and evaluation skills.

I studied the fundamentals of manufacturing, electronic and electrical engineering and achieved distinctions in all modules and distinction* overall in all three BTEC subjects. After college, I applied to do aerospace engineering at university. I accepted an offer from my first choice, Brunel University, because of its good reputation in engineering, especially aerospace and mechanical engineering, the subjects I had an interest in. 

During my degree, I had the opportunity to spend 12 months working for Bosch Thermotechnology Ltd as an intern, gaining valuable engineering and management experience. I was exposed to the manufacturing industry for the first time; I worked with a range of teams, each very different, and was involved in different projects from taking ideas from concept, through prototype stages and onto manufacture. This ensured that I was well versed with the working of the whole company, and allowed me to gain wide-ranging transferable skills, such as team working, project planning, communication, hands-on practical working and IT skills.

The experience in industry was really helpful in my final year at university. I was better at managing my time and tasks, and my presentation and project management skills were significantly improved. Along with my academic progression over previous years, this gave me a head start in tackling the challenges of my final-year project – enabling me to achieve a high 1st overall.

What’s the best thing about being an engineer?

Engineering gives us the power to come up with new solutions and improve our lives. Albert Einstein once said “Scientists investigate that which already is; engineers create that which has never been”, and that is what makes engineering interesting and attractive to me.

Discovering and overcoming problems that others have not thought about is the most satisfying aspect of being an engineer: the sense of joy you get when seeing a new problem and you work out how to solve it.

In the future, my aim is to conduct more research and eventually invent products that make our planet greener. I believe that we are all born for a reason, and that is to make this world a better place for future generations. We are the guardians of the future generation, no matter where we are and what we do. I am using engineering to achieve this important goal and will do my best to leave a world better than it is today.

Can anyone become an engineer?

Definitely. Engineering is not a subject but a way of thinking. When you set up your phone, computer or television to watch something or play a game – that is engineering. When you mend your bike or car – that is engineering. When you fix a light bulb or an appliance in your house – that is engineering. There are millions of things that we all do in our daily lives without knowing that we are actually doing engineering.

Engineers think in a different way from other people but also from each other. We were all created different; therefore, we think differently and have a different perspective on problems. This is what makes engineering beautiful and practicable. Thinking differently from other people and other engineers makes engineering challenging and leads to continuous improvement, as every engineer has their own unique way of making something better.

I see an engineer as an artist more than a mathematician or physicist. An engineer uses their creative imagination to view the world in a different way and, through the skill of art, designs and creates something new. Engineers are also good managers and presenters, and are capable of using their mathematical and physical knowledge to turn thoughts into reality.

Engineering gives you a ‘third eye’ and courage that others might not have. That eye gives you a vision to see the flaws and imperfections of things in life, while courage gives you the confidence to correct them.

What three things should young people know about engineering?

  • Engineering is interesting and fun
  • Engineering is not hard – anyone can do it
  • Engineering gets you a job and helps you live a good life.

My advice is –"Just do it". If you’re interested in making this world a better place for others, if you want to achieve something that others are afraid of, if you want to make the next generation of computers, bikes, cars, aeroplanes, rockets, space shuttles, if you want to impress others and be proud of yourself – do engineering.

Year of Engineering

"If you’re interested in making this world a better place for others, if you want to achieve something that others are afraid of, if you want to make the next generation of computers, bikes, cars, aeroplanes, rockets, space shuttles, if you want to impress others and be proud of yourself – do engineering."

Navid Khordehgah Researcher, Brunel University, London

Facts

Name: Navid Khordehgah

Employer: Brunel University London

Job title: Research Engineer

Role in a nutshell: Investigating, developing and validating methods and technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

Education:

2010-12: BTEC Manufacturing, Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Sussex Downs College
2013-17 Bachelor of Engineering, Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Brunel University London

2017 – Energy Efficient and Sustainable Technologies Research, Brunel University London.

Career history: 2015-16: Manufacturing and Operations Intern, Bosch Thermotechnology Ltd. (Worcester Bosch)

Awards and accolades:

2016: Certificate of Exceptional Performance, Bosch Thermotechnology Ltd.

2017: Airbus Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Design and Engineering relating to the avation and aerospace industries

2017: Crown Packaging Prize for Excellence in Engineering analysis, simulation and modelling

2018: Runner-up, Institution for Mechanical Engineers Speak out for Engineering competition.

Interests outside engineering:

Plane spotting, flying, hiking, swimming, basketball

Proudest moments: When I manage to discover the answer to a problem or work out the way of doing something.