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#SpaceWatchME Interview: Dr. Anna Garcia-Sabate at TechShop

3D printers at TechShop Abu Dhabi; Credits: SpaceWatch Middle East

TechShop Abu Dhabi is the first facility of its kind in the GCC and was created through a partnership with the Innovator Programme, an initiative by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee, that supports the UAE community to engage in technology and unleash their innovation capability. It is a playground for creativity. Part fabrication and prototyping studio part hackerspace and part learning centre, TechShop provides access to a wide range of professional equipment and software, giving everyone the opportunity to develop their ideas, no matter what they happen to be. SpaceWatch Middle East Torsten Kriening spoke to Dr. Anna Garcia-Sabate, Education Manager at TechShop, about her work and the positive results that it yields.

Examples of creativity in TechShop Abu Dhabi; Credits: SpaceWatch Middle East

What brings you to the TechShop? What excites you about it?

What excites me is to be involved in a community that is so creative. You have people from all different kinds of backgrounds using big tools and hi-tech equipment to help them realise their own projects. This is something that they could never even have imagined they could have done before, because they didn’t have access to these tools. Now that they have been given access, their options have expanded. They have a full range of things they can do. So, I think that being involved in this movement, for me, is very enriching.

You have a PhD, Anna, so what is your PhD about?

My PhD is in Applied Physics, but I specifically studied the behaviour of two phase flows in different gravity conditions: microgravity, hypergravity or at high rotating speeds like you find in rockets. We were trying to understand how liquid and gas behave and how to control them with acoustic fields or vibrations. The end goal here is to have more efficient systems in spacecraft that would optimise the use of two phase flows. It can be applied to thermal control systems or for a fuel tank, etc. Especially for fuel tanks there are some issues, because there are some parts of the fuel tank that are more prone to having hot spots where there will be boiling and cause liquid fuel to be lost because it is being boiled away. By using acoustic waves, we were trying to reduce the heat flux in that area to stop the boiling and to control where the air and liquid are because, in space, everything is mixed around.

Complex prototype productions steps; Credits: SpaceWatch Middle East

So that’s a proper space education! From space to ground! How does this very complex environment help you in your job and how can you mentor the young talents that you have coming to your shop? How can you pass on your inspiration to your members?

One of the parts of my PhD was that I had to make experiments from scratch so from design, analysis, all the way through to results and conclusion. I had to get involved in all sorts of fields including electronics, automation, mechanics – you name it. I had to adapt these payloads to either a rocket or a centrifuge.

When I first heard of Techshop, it was after I had finished all my experiments and I thought ‘wow’ I wish I had known about this before. One of the things that excited me the most was that the process that you go through to get to your results. That was one of things from which I learned the most because I had to do everything on my own. I think that is the best way to learn anything – to get out there and do things for yourself. From that, I learned a lot. During my PhD, I also had to be involved in education. I have a passion for outreach. I did workshops for high school students on space missions where they had to plan a mission to Mars and they had different teams and got involved with robotics, launchers etc. They were working separately in groups and then, at the end of the day, they had to bring all the ideas together. If I can inspire one of them to follow science, engineering or space education, it means a great deal to me. It’s very fulfilling. So being in charge of education at TechShop, I get to do the things I am passionate about: making things, designing things and reaching out to people to make them realise there is this community. People can do these things if they really want to. There are options out there.

3D printed astronaut; Credits: SpaceWatch Middle East

You exhibited with the UAE Space Agency at the Global Space Congress 2017, so what is the connection with the Space Agency?

The UAE Space Agency was keen on showcasing 3D printing and the applications that it could have for space missions. This will be the second time we have collaborated with the UAE Space Agency. We printed out some models of the Hope probe and together we demonstrated how 3D printing can be beneficial for space. For example, for your mission, you may might need a screw or a nut or bolt and the printer gives you the capability to actually print it and use it.

Are there any programmes at the moment that you are working on with the UAE or any other space agencies? The UAE in particular is keen on promoting STEM. What is in the pipeline for you?

We would like to hope that these collaborations are the seed for further programmes involving all ages. In the future, we would very much like to be involved with them. The UAE Space Agency is very keen on developing the space industry within the country, which includes aerospace education.

Dr. Anna Garcia-Sabate; Credits: Dr. Anna Garcia-Sabate

How can your members benefit from a space education? How is it relevant to them here on Earth?

I always find that research or education in space gives more back than people are aware of. It’s all about pushing boundaries and engaging people to develop systems and products for space applications. This means that they usually try to optimise weight and cost and this all reverts back to things that we might end up using on a daily basis here on earth.

As people, we are always curious to go one step further and humans by nature are explorers. Per aspera ad astra.

Dr. Anna Garcia-Sabate is an aeronautical engineer with a PhD in Computational and Applied Physics. She is currently the education manager at TechShop Abu Dhabi. Anna participated in several ESA Education Programs (drop tower, centrifuge and sounding rocket) as well as two other sounding rocket campaigns (NASA’s Flight Opportunities). She has a great passion for outreach and was also the president and co-founder of the Student European Low Gravity Research Association (SELGRA), where she still is a Management Committee Member.

Original published at: http://spacewatchme.com/2017/02/spacewatchme-interview-dr-anna-garcia-sabate-at-techshop/

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