Bob Gliege

Research Scientist and Engineer

Bob GliegeAs an engineer, Bob Gliege supports NOAA and JISAO research efforts. He is responsive to a broad range of scientific investigators, and the nature and scope of the projects vary accordingly. Bob designs and develops instruments and moorings for oceanic and atmospheric research. The goal of the Engineering Development Division that Bob is a part of is to expand and refine our measurement capability of the marine environment.

A Bellingham native, Bob has been tinkering with gadgets since he was a child. His desire to know how things work sparked an early interest in engineering that blossomed when he enrolled in a racecar engineering course at the University of Washington.

At the UW Bob majored in mechanical engineering and participated in an internship developing implantable medical devices for lung volume reduction surgery. After graduation he got a job in the aerospace and defense industry working as a manufacturing engineer of precision instruments. Bob joined NOAA as a contract employee two years ago and became a JISAO employee last summer.

Bob typically works on several projects. Some of his current work includes designing a moored acoustic array, a seafloor tilt meter, a new weather station for buoys, a moored underwater profiling instrument, and various other side projects. Some of the side projects deal with a new-generation buoy called the DART ETD (easy to deploy). The DART system can be deployed in a fraction of the time compared to traditional buoy systems. In the system there is an anchor and line coiled up inside each buoy, so deployment consists of simply tossing the buoy off the back of the ship and having the anchor deploy itself to the sea floor.

As a companion to the DART ETD Bob is working on a device called the PRAWLER, which gets its name from a combination of profiler and crawler. The PRAWLER is an instrument attached to the anchor line that can drop itself to a programmed depth and then use wave energy to climb its way back up, profiling the temperature, pressure and conductivity of the seawater along the way. Previously, scientists had to use multiple, stationary instruments attached at various intervals along the line.

Designing and developing a new piece of equipment sometimes takes several years to complete. A design may start as simply as a sketch on a piece of paper or whiteboard during a brainstorming session. Concepts are made into 3D models, analyzed, and then sent to the machine shop for prototype fabrication. Prototypes are tested and refined extensively before being deployed for scientific research. It's not uncommon for a simple-looking device to take several iterations to perfect.

There's always a sense of relief when it works, Bob says, because research expeditions are scheduled in advance and the equipment has to be ready on time. The work environment is relatively stress-free but there can be some long hours leading up to a ship date.

There are perks to being an oceanographic engineer, most notably travel via scientific cruises. Bob has been to Hawaii several times and says the best part of his job is going out in the field to test his creations. Outside of work, Bob likes to travel, ski, and play a variety of sports with friends.