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Top Ten Fictional Characters for Engineers

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect an official Ansys stance or any related corporate agreements, incentives or decisions.

Watch some fictional characters that inspire us to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

These days, many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) practitioners, like myself, are bunkered at home.

As a result, we are all looking for ways to fill the time. Personally, I miss interacting with my STEM colleagues.

I’ve found that the best ways to scratch both of these itches is to surround myself with fictional characters that have inspired current and future generations to pursue STEM.

So, without further delay, here are 10 fictional characters and 10 honorable mentions you might want to spend your time with.

To become colleagues with some interesting engineers, like the ones below, check out the Ansys career page.

10. Angus “Mac” MacGyver — MacGyver

Most of my engineering mentors would say I was remiss if Macgyver, and his trusty Swiss Army knife, didn’t make it to the list. Afterall, who else can use household items to blast his way out of a prison cell?

As a nonviolent, pseudo secret agent, Mac solves his problems with his brain instead of his brawn. He will defend himself, but he is more likely to escape by building a glider out of duct tape.

Though other heroes fight guns with guns, Mac uses strategy and whatever is around him to science his way to victory. For an example, watch him disarm a rocket with a paperclip:

Only MacGyver can disarm a rocket with a lockpick and paperclip.

Mac has to think quick on his feet. As a result, he needs a tool that will help him assess if his escape plans are feasible. Ansys Discovery Live’s near-instant simulation results would likely be the most useful for him. With it, he can quickly model his problem and tweak the design until it’s close to optimal.

Mac stars in MacGyver, two made for tv movies and a reboot.

9. Kaywinnet Lee (Kaylee) Frye — Firefly Universe

Kaylee grew up “on-the-rim” where there weren’t many educational or financial opportunities for the people on her planet.

This didn’t stop her. She expanded her engineering talents by fixing anything that was broken.

Kaylee developed the ability to “speak to machinery” which eventually landed her the job of mechanic on the spaceship Serenity.

The crew often turns to her when they need something fixed, built, installed or invented. But, given her upbeat personality, it is just as likely that they will come to her for a boost in morale.

See actress Jewel Staite talking about returning to the character of Kaylee.

Firefly fans will note that Kaylee often uses whatever she finds laying around each planet to fix up Serenity. As a result, tools like Ansys GRANTA Materials Data for Simulation and Ansys Mechanical would be good choices for her. When she finds a part that could work for the ship, she could model it in Mechanical and find its materials data using GRANTA technology. She can then assess if the part is appropriate for the job.

To see Kaylee in action, watch Firefly, Serenity and read the Serenity comics.

8. Hiro Hamada — Big Hero 6

Hiro Hamada is a savant, but still quite young. As a result, he didn’t have much of a drive until his brother, Tadashi, showed him the wonders of his school’s science lab. It then became Hiro’s mission to be accepted to the same school.

As his entrance project, Hiro created a series of microbots that he could control with his mind. Little did he know that someone nefarious would steal this technology and threaten the lives of his friends — both human and android.

With his brother gone and the city in danger, Hiro must upgrade Tadashi’s invention (dubbed Baymax) and team up with fellow inventors to save the day.

Watch Hiro upgrade Baymax so they can battle a super villain that has stolen his microbot technology.

To have his microbots work in unison, Hiro would have to write a lot of software. It’s true that he controls the bots by thinking of a shape for their swarm to take but it’s unlikely he is telling each individual bot where to go – the software he wrote likely handles that. As a result, Hiro would fit in well with the embedded software team working on Ansys SCADE.

To hang out with Hiro, watch the Big Hero 6 film, animated series and shorts. Or, catch up with Big Hero 6 in the Marvel comics universe.

7. Entrapta — She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

As the smartest introvert on Etheria, Entrapta can sometimes seem like she’s more interested in science and engineering than the people around her. That can’t be further from the truth.

Entrapta wears her heart on her sleeve and is constantly looking for new friends to fill her life. Sometimes those friends are heroic, sometimes they are mechanical inventions and sometimes they have evil plans to take over the world.

But whatever side Entrapta fights on, good or evil, she wants what’s best for the people of Etheria. And she truly believes that her pursuit of science will make her world a better place.

Check out a montage of Entrapta’s delightfully eccentric inventions.

Entrapta is brilliant, but after watching a few of her inventions in action, it’s clear she would benefit from implementing more safety procedures. As a result, Ansys medini analyze would be a good tool for her to learn. With it, she can set up a functional safety analysis to optimize her designs.

You can watch Entrapta in the original She-Ra: Princess of Power where she shows up as a villain in four episodes. But for a more nuanced, and hilarious, take on the character, watch the reboot She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix.

6. Ironman/Tony Stark — Marvel

Tony Stark has become a household name thanks to his run in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Over the past decade, he was the funny, charming and ingenious glue that brought the film franchise together.

But what lands Stark on this list is his ability to build super machines, weapons and even time-traveling devices. What’s even better is he uses simulation technology to create all his feats of engineering!

That’s right, Stark uses simulations to guide his early design iterations. Through the films you consistently see him use digital models to test and optimize all his inventions. As a lover of simulation technology, I’m always curious of how it will turn up in the MCU.

Since Stark is already a simulation power user, I see him jumping into the deep end by setting up multiphysics simulations. He can use the multiphysics process integration capabilities of Ansys Minerva and Ansys optiSLang to optimize his performance parameters.

To see Stark use simulation, watch the MCU or his numerous adventures in Marvel cartoons, books, comics and video games.

5. The Doctor — Doctor Who

According to Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of science fiction, sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. That concept perfectly encapsulates Doctor Who, and its titular character, The Doctor.

The Doctor is a near immortal, body-shifting, STEM prodigy from the planet Gallifrey. He grew sick of his people’s draconian rule over space-time. So, for fun, he stole a time machine and started traveling the multiverse with clever companions that he would meet during his travels.

The Doctor tends to avoid violence. So, when people use guns, he uses his trusty wand — I mean sonic screwdriver. But watch out, if push comes to shove, he is willing to use his scientific knowledge to become as dangerous as an oncoming storm.


See how The 11th Doctor tests the science of wormholes before he meets his past self, The 10th Doctor.

With The Doctor’s ability to quickly perform complex calculations in his head, he must know of some interesting algorithms and equations that can simplify his computations. This would make him a perfect fit with the teams that optimize how Ansys’ solvers interact with cloud and high-performance computing (HPC) technologies.

Jumping into the nearly 60-year long series of Doctor Who can be daunting. I recommend starting with a stand-alone episode that has a good hook, like 2007’s Blink. Then, jump back to an episode with a fresh beginning — typically just after The Doctor regenerates into a new body/actor — like the start of the 2005 reboot.

4. Mark Watney — The Martian

During Mark Watney’s astronaut training, he must have taken the Apollo 11 phrase “failure is not an option” to heart.

His mission to Mars was supposed to be cut short due to an emergency evacuation. Unfortunately, during the retreat, Watney is injured and assumed dead. When he comes to and tends to his wounds, Watney realizes that his earliest time of rescue is four years out and he only has weeks of food left.

Instead of waiting for death, Watney chooses to use his engineering, biochemistry and botany knowledge to survive until rescue.

The Martian film takes some liberties with science to fit the runtime. However, a fascinating thing about the book is that novelist Andy Weir painstakingly researched Mars, orbital mechanics and other related science topics. As a result, everything Watney does is theoretically possible. In fact, Weir commented on how he would update the novel after recent Mars discoveries.

So, this means that a keen STEM mind will be able to solve problems with Watney. They can read about the current problem he is facing, assess what he has on hand and predict the solution Watney comes up with. This makes for a relatable, educational and heart-wrenching experience.

Many of the problems faced by Watney revolve around overcoming the chemistry of Mars. For instance, he must find ways to grow food in Martian soil and produce enough water for the crops and himself. To create systems that process the soil and water, Watney could use Ansys Fluent and Ansys Chemkin Enterprise simulation technology. These simulations would help him ensure that the systems will extract any chemical species that could be harmful.

3. Lieutenant Ellen Louise Ripley — The Alien Franchise

Whether it’s following proper safety procedures, launching monsters out of air locks or rescuing marines on retreat, Lt. Ellen Ripley appears to be the only person in the Alien Franchise capable of making logical, lifesaving decisions. Perhaps it’s that Masters in Engineering she has?

If people listened to Ripley’s scientific and logical mind, most of the Xenomorph-related tragedies in the series would be avoided. This reoccurring theme speaks to interesting social commentaries that could interest many STEM professionals.

However, Ripley’s story arc can still be seen with an inspirational light. When the folly of others put everyone in danger, it’s Ripley’s quick thinking that saves that day. To see that mind in action, watch her take out an Xenomorph in the video below:


Watch Ripley problem solve quickly as she outwits a Xenomorph multiple times.

One of the biggest strengths of the Xenomorphs is their ability to hide and traverse long distances without being seen. As a result, Ripley could benefit from the use of Ansys SPEOS. With it, she could design an optical sensor — similar to thermal or night-vision goggles — that could pick up individual aliens in her field of vision. This way, they could never sneak up on her and her friends ever again.

Ripley can be seen in various films, comics, novels and video games related to the Alien Franchise.

2. (Doc) Emmett Brown — Back to the Future

As a “student of all of the sciences,” Doc became a quintessential mad scientist that any STEM practitioner could adore. Before we even catch a glimpse of this nutty genius, we are introduced to a home that tells us everything we needed to know him. He is a mysterious inventor of lovable — sometimes dangerous — trinkets, gizmos and tools that will put a smile on our faces.

Doc and his friend Marty McFly travel space-time in the iconic DeLorean. Along the way, they tend to mess up the timeline in interesting, hilarious and endearing ways. It’s then up to the duo to save the space-time continuum and get themselves back to the future they know.

A keen-eyed viewer will note that in the third Back to the Future film, Doc builds circuitry to replace a microchip that hasn't been invented yet. With skills like that, we can see him fitting in well with the engineers working on developing new tools for Ansys Electronics Enterprise. If this type of development matches your interests, read the Ansys career page.

Doc might be the funniest inventor to ever grace the big screen. To see him in action, watch the Back to the Future trilogy. Doc can also be found in various cartoons, video games and cameos.

1. Lieutenant-Commander Geordi La Forge — Star Trek: The Next Generation

In my opinion, there isn’t a more inspiring STEM character than LeVar Burton’s Geordi La Forge.

A similar thing can be said about all of the chief engineers in the series. So why was La Forge chosen? Well, he is the reason I started my path into engineering — and I didn’t want the whole list to be filled with Star Trek characters.

La Forge always finds a solution to a problem. And when that solution isn’t immediately apparent, he digs into it. First, he assesses the problem from all angles, runs the data through simulations and tests. Then, he saves the day before a warp core breach.

Though every character in the series has an episode where they save the day with science, no one did it quite as skillfully. Not even the all-knowing Data could match the creativity and clever thinking of my chief engineer, Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge.

With these abilities, La Forge would be at home working on any tool in the Ansys portfolio, but if I had to choose one, it would be Ansys CFD. He could use the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to find a way to prevent all those coolant leaks that happen when the Enterprise goes into battle.

If you want to check out La Forge in action, watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and all connected films, books and video games.

Ansys hires a wide range of engineers, just like the characters above. To join their ranks, check out the Ansys career page.

Are you still looking for more characters? Check out these honorable mentions:

  1. The Goal’s Alex Rogo
  2. Batman’s Bruce Wayne
  3. Gravity Fall’s Stan (Ford) Pines
  4. James Bond’s Q
  5. Independence Day’s David Levinson
  6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ Wayne Szalinski
  7. Tron’s Kevin Flynn
  8. Metal Gear Solid’s Hal (Otacon) Emmerich
  9. The Fly’s Seth (Brundle-Fly) Brundle
  10. Avatar: The Last Airbender’s Mechanist

Any and all ANSYS, Inc. brand, product, service and feature names, logos and slogans such as Ansys, Ansys CFD, Ansys Chemkin, Ansys Electronics Enterprise, Ansys Discovery Live, Ansys Fluent, Ansys GRANTA, Ansys Mechanical, Ansys medini analyze, Ansys Minerva, Ansys SCADE, Ansys optiSLang and Ansys SPEOS are registered trademarks or trademarks of ANSYS, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States or other countries.