The path of every engineer is different. For Jeff Ferkey, his path has taken him across the globe, into the classroom and back.

Jeff is a Mechanical Project Engineer at Pearl Engineering and an engineer-in-training (EIT). At Pearl, Jeff works with his fellow engineers on a variety of different projects in a variety of different areas as he expands his engineering expertise.

The process of becoming a fully-licensed engineer is a long journey. After graduating from an accredited engineering program, engineers must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam in order to register as an EIT. From there, they must get 4 years of experience in the field working under a professional licensed engineer (PE) before taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. After passing this final exam, EITs can register to become a fully-licensed PE.

Jeff is well on his way and is extremely excited to be able to work with Pearl.

“I really love the variety of work I am able to take on at Pearl,” Jeff said. “I have always been one who wants to learn as much as I can, and Jeff (Pearl) is extremely encouraging and supportive when it comes to taking on new projects and providing relevant training opportunities.”

Jeff’s love of learning has been a defining factor on the journey that has landed him at Pearl. While enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering program at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Jeff was able to spend a semester studying in Darmstadt, Germany. Known as “the city of science,” Darmstadt offered Jeff the opportunity to further develop his primary focus of study in material science through courses in Failure Analysis and Fracture Mechanics.

Jeff was also able to grow culturally too while continuing to study and practice his German.

Upon graduation, Jeff returned to his alma mater of Assumption High School where he taught Math, Science, and Technology courses. “It was a great way for me to give back to an institution that I felt had offered me so much,” Jeff said of his time at Assumption. A chance encounter at a graduation party with Joe Erdmann, Pearl’s Design Team Leader, inspired Jeff to join Pearl.

Computational Fluid Dynamics

Working with thermal-fluid systems, Jeff’s primary areas of expertise include Pipe Stress Analysis, Pipe Flow Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), a relatively young but extremely innovative field of engineering.

CFD is the study of fluid flow and heat transfer utilizing either 2D or 3D computer-aided design (CAD). With CFD, gases, liquids and heat can be analyzed to measure flow through or around solids.

“It’s an extremely powerful tool,” Jeff said. “With CFD, we can build full-scale CAD models and expose them to a variety of conditions. We can then analyze how these models will react. Essentially, we can test a design for a building, room layout or product before anything is even built, which saves our client both time and money.”

Jeff gave the commonly-known example of putting an automotive vehicle in a wind-tunnel to test drag and air flow around the vehicle. Using CFD, all of that could be tested and refined prior to the construction of a physical prototype.

Other examples of CFD application could be seeing how heat distributes through a room if a vent is placed at a certain location, accounting for how much cooking oil needs to be used in a fryer to account for the loss of temperature cooking frozen French fries or even the correct placement for a vacuum to collect sawdust particles from a saw before they reach the ground.

The technology is even sophisticated enough to simulate the splashing of water from a stream if you dropped a rock in it.

CFD emerged in the mid-70’s but engineers had to wait for computer technology and capability to catch up with the concept. Jeff says now CFD has matured to where “the use of software can provide an accurate analysis at a significantly lower cost when compared to physical testing.”

CFD testing can save manufacturers, engineers and designers tremendous amounts of time and money. Before CFD, prototypes had to be designed, built, and tested. If the design was flawed, it was scrapped. Time to start over. Now, incredibly accurate readings can be done using CFD software. If a flaw is found, the design can be changed and tested again in just minutes instead of weeks or months.

The ability to adapt designs instantly allows CFD to be used to test current designs and measure the effect on the system. Current models can be changed on the fly to identify areas of improvement.

About Jeff

Jeff is a born and raised Wisconsinite, growing up in Wisconsin Rapids and attending Assumption High School before attending the University of Wisconsin-Platteville where he got a Bachelors of Science in Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in German.

Jeff described his experience abroad as “unforgettable.”

“I got to meet people from all around the world and learn about their cultures and perspectives,” he said. “Studying abroad allowed me to expand my horizons and open my mind to new ideas.”

Jeff was able to explore outside of Germany as well, visiting such cities as Athens, Rome, London, Zurich, Vienna, Paris, and Prague.

When he’s not at Pearl Engineering, Jeff enjoys working with his hands and expanding his mind.  His major hobbies range from woodworking to exploring some of the latest technology.

He also faithfully roots for the Packers and the Darmstadt soccer team. Jeff played recreational soccer growing up and someday hopes to volunteer as a coach.

If you are in need of creative solutions, let Jeff and the rest of the team at Pearl Engineering be the answer.