M.S. Engineering Management, 2007
Tyler Nielsen earned his master’s degree from AFIT in engineering management in 2007. He currently works in facility management at the Utah Test and Training Range at Hill AFB. He is responsible for the day to day activities of maintaining the facility as well as many special projects on the range. “It’s a nice mix of engineering, planning, and future project development. But going out the range and working on projects that directly support the warfighter is the most fun part of the day. We provide the infrastructure that makes weapons testing and training possible.”
Nielsen was a member of the team who received the 2015 Federal Energy and Water Management Award. At the time of the award, Nielsen was the Operations Flight Chief for the 721st Civil Engineer Squadron at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station (CMAFS) in Colorado.
A major issue at CMAFS was dealing with old infrastructure built more as a weapon than a facility that would need to consider energy conservation. “Anything they did back then was operational. It was built with the idea that it would harbor a control center that could withstand a first strike.” Now, almost 50 years into the future, the facility is a modern mission center inside a closed space filled with heat generating equipment such as computers. “The major mission for CMAFS’ CE personnel is cooling and heat rejection using infrastructure legacy systems.”
The team's efforts reduced energy consumption by 8.5% in FY 2014 as compared to the previous year and 18.4% from the FY 2003 baseline. To maintain acceptable operating temperatures in CMAFS' hardened underground facility, heat must be actively rejected from the system in a quantity roughly equal to the heat being added, accounting for about 45% of the monthly energy consumption. Special efforts were directed toward reducing "mission" energy consumption and costs while also reducing the costs of rejecting the heat generated by mission-critical activities, including computer equipment upgrades, condenser and chilled water optimization, and installation of a waterside economizer to take advantage of "free cooling."
Nielsen is enthusiastic when discussing his time at AFIT. “AFIT was phenomenal! You don’t often get an opportunity to really have the freedom to pursue your interests. The faculty I worked with allowed me to explore green design and look at a lot of really radical ideas for the Air Force. At AFIT we were talking about big ideas like the possibility of sod roofs, green walls, solar powered parking structures, and zero emission buildings. My time at AFIT really changed my perception of construction to not be limited by conventional thinking. It was some of the best years of my professional career.”
Nielsen’s advice for young civil engineering professionals is to be a jack-of-all-trades. “You may not have to be the expert, but you need to understand the fundamentals of engineering across the board and be able to speak intelligently about the issues. Know your electric, mechanical and civil engineering.” In addition, he stresses the need to understand how money works within the DoD. “Understand the process that goes from Congress appropriating money, to the President signing an appropriations bill all the way down to the money coming into your squadron’s pocket. One of our biggest challenges in the CE field is being able to get money executed. It’s a long chain and you have to know how the process works.”
Nielsen’s advice for current AFIT students is to have fun. “AFIT is awesome. Do research that interests you. Don’t limit yourself – if you aren’t having fun you are doing the wrong research – go figure out what you want to do.”