Coders help to take aerospace engineering digital
Strings of 0s and 1s on a computer screen that are helping power autonomous aircraft, protecting soldiers in battle or warning a country of enemy threat can be hard to compute for those without a technology degree. Yet this is exactly what Boeing Australia’s team of highly experienced software engineers do every day enabling future aerospace developments and building local capabilities. This technical expertise is positioning Australia at the forefront of innovations in digital twin technology, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, autonomous systems, battlespace communications and more. Integrating their technical know-how into state-of-the-art systems is growing Australia’s innovation and defence footprint, while advancing global connections.
With the US National Engineering Week in February extending across Boeing’s global footprint, meet the team behind the computer screens materialising ideas and cutting codes into products changing the world.
Taking information technology classes in high school wasn’t an option for second-year graduate Elizabeth Capararo when she was growing up in her small rural hometown in New South Wales, but tinkering with computers after school was enough to ignite her passion for programming.
Today she's working side-by-side the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a member of the Ground Systems Capability team, providing software support and development for the E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft at RAAF Base Williamtown. “Not many people could say they see a military jet every single day. The work is exciting, challenging and fast-paced and being immersed in an active base environment means I can look outside and see what I’m working on and know I’m making a tangible difference,” said Capararo.
“While we are developing software, we don’t just sit at a terminal all day. There’s lots of planning, testing and collaborating with the developers around me to brainstorm ideas or talk-through problems. A good portion of the day might be coding, but there are so many other parts of the job that keep it incredibly dynamic and motivating,” she said.
“The defence platforms we work on are absolutely fascinating and the software that makes them tick, even more so. I’ve had a couple of web development jobs prior to working at Boeing but I never had the same level of engagement. What we do here, it’s a lot more meaningful and it feels like it has a bigger impact.”
Imagine your programming having the power to help make existing aircraft systems smarter, missions safer and operations more efficient. This is the job of senior software engineer on the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS), Lauren Skelly.
Her role involves working closely with the RAAF to develop system requirements and demonstrate future simulations in what’s called a ‘digital twin’ to ensure the platform continues to evolve to meet the needs of defence customers around the world.
“It’s an amazing feeling knowing code that you have written will help save lives by protecting defence personnel,” remarked Skelly. “I’m proudest of my work building the operational capability of the ATS.”
Over her six-year tenure at Boeing, Skelly has worked on projects such as enterprise-wide modelling and simulation tools and condition monitoring software for Boeing aircraft, building a competitive set of skills that would be the perfect launchpad into autonomous systems.
“I decided to join Boeing initially from a completely different industry because I thought it would be a fun challenge and different to anything else I had done. Little did I know in a few short years I’d be working on the first aircraft to be developed in Australia in more than 50 years,” she said. “It’s such an exciting time in defence right now and the environment is incredibly supportive. My number one advice would be to back yourself, get out there and make amazing things happen.”
Enabling brave members of the defence force to protect their country continues to inspire software engineering lead, Ian Thomas. He most recently contributed to Boeing’s JP9102 proposal – the Commonwealth’s first investment in a sovereign owned and controlled military satellite communication system – and is now part of the team preparing the Wedgetail Phase 6 aircraft tender response.
“These are very large, complex and important programs being worked on for Australia,” said Thomas. “Airplanes, satellites, rockets going into space; these are all platforms that push the envelope of engineering. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by the very smartest people who are committed to solving these difficult problems.”
While any given day could be spent getting hands-on coding and working through algorithms, his most important job always remains coaching and developing his teammates.
“Inspiring others to code, supporting what they’re doing and helping them learn is really my main focus,” he said. “Software engineering is a key priority for Boeing. We’re starting to see more modern ways of working being rolled out across the enterprise in new design practices and tools which is very exciting for anyone looking to get involved.”
The Wedgetail Phase 6 upgrade is slated to be the next evolution of the aircraft and will require a significant amount of new software developed in Australia, resulting in a number of new positions across the country.
“There are many interesting software engineering projects across all Boeing programs and a real focus on career progression, improvement, training and collaboration in a supportive environment,” he said.
Coding autonomous robots that work alongside humans to improve safety and quality in factories isn’t science fiction, it’s William Ko’s career.
The automation research engineer is working in the Advanced Production Systems team at Boeing Research & Technology Australia (Melbourne), programming autonomous robots to streamline manufacturing processes for Boeing airplanes.
“Seeing your work come to life in the real world is definitely a highlight,” Ko said. “It is very rare to work in a place where you can have an impact on a real production environment.”
“Boeing is unique in that there are so many opportunities where the right software in the right places can have a massive impact on a very complex engineering problem or product.”
Ko originally joined Boeing as an intern working on collaborative robots, a project he was ultimately hired to complete as a graduate.
“I was pleasantly surprised by Boeing’s presence in Australia. It gives you great exposure to the industry and opens up opportunities for you to be creative with your solutions.”
Feeling inspired? We’re looking for software engineers to join our team today – find out more and apply.