I am also an engineer, and this is my technique:
If you know a local station, tune manually to it. If you don't, try several different antenna orientations and scan or check for reception (try channel 3 or 4). Once you have a channel, find the signal meter on the setup menu (most newer TVs will have one) and turn the antenna until you get the best signal. Then, run the scan.
Of course, since I'm often in the middle of nowhere, I usually use the satellite dish and tripod. Normally, I use the antenna only if I know there are stations nearby and I want the HD (my dish is SD) or I'm in a hurry and don't feel like setting up and aiming the dish.
Gary Shapiro, 2011 Georgetown 29' Class A
Dash, Molly & Lily - now at the Bridge and forever in my heart
Shadow - 4-year-old Greyhound
Hannah - 1 1/2-year-old GSD rescue