Member spotlight – Elizabeth Chao
By Vansa Chang and Noah Klager
Elizabeth Chao is in her 5th year of mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta and is the current admin team lead of AlbertaSat. She joined AlbertaSat in her 1st year after hearing about it from her peers in addition to its great popularity at the university. Elizabeth, having a strong passion for engineering projects and an interest in working with students who have similar goals, AlbertaSat was the clear choice because of the tight-knit team dynamic. Outside of AlbertaSat Elizabeth enjoys painting, music, piano, and other forms of art in her free time.
Elizabeth chose mechanical engineering due to the broad nature of the degree, which in turn can many future careers. Later in her degree, she found enjoyment in creating designs, which helped solidify her career path. Through this passion for design, she was able to combine her creative interests with mechanical engineering. Eventually, Elizabeth decided that she would want to head to grad school for biomedical engineering. Elizabeth is interested in pursuing biomedical engineering because she wants to help others by designing prosthetics, robots, and other technology to help in the medical field.
Elizabeth, being the current admin team lead, takes on plenty of responsibilities. They include onboarding new members, organizing tasks to assign to ~30 admin team members, monitoring the completion of tasks so they are finished in a timely manner, promoting AlbertaSat to the University of Alberta students, and selling merchandise such as hoodies, stickers, hats and more.
Elizabeth isn’t only our admin team lead; she also started off on the mechanical team. Currently, Elizabeth is a member of the mechanical division on the Iris payload team. The payload team is responsible for designing the instruments used to gather data during the mission, along with all parts associated with them such as housing, thermal performance, and circuitry. Since Elizabeth is a part of the mechanical division, she is responsible for designing the housing of the Iris payload. Iris is a multispectral imager that takes photos of the Earth allowing scientists to observe wildfires. This past summer, Elizabeth worked full-time on the structure holding the mirrors and lenses used in Iris as a part of her 5th co-op term working on AlbertaSat satellite manufacturing and assembly. Elizabeth spoke about how the most difficult part of using lenses and mirrors in a design is having them in the ideal position. To work around this, Elizabeth and her team implement springs that can be used to slightly adjust the position of the mirrors and lenses. This allows the team to position everything perfectly and adjust them accordingly post-assembly.
Elizabeth had also spoken about the benefits of AlbertaSat on the community. The Education Outreach team which Elizabeth loves volunteering for allows members of AlbertaSat to go to schools within the province. Here AlbertaSat members teach students about STEM by having them complete little in-class projects, in hopes of making them excited and intrigued about space and engineering.
Furthermore, AlbertaSat has given Elizabeth many valuable opportunities and experiences in the engineering industry. Since Elizabeth joined AlbertaSat early on in her education, she was able to use her experience in AlbertaSat to get her first co-op job related to design. Some experiences she gained during her time with AlbertaSat include working on the design and manufacturing of parts; teamwork and communication required to complete a project; distribution of work across a team; and performing research to find the best possible part for a project.
When inquiring what Elizabeth hopes the future holds for AlbertaSat, she spoke about working on smaller projects. This would allow for more team members to get hands-on experience in the designing and creation of a variety of projects. With the CubeSat, it can be difficult to get hands-on experience with the steep learning curve and having the design already completed. Elizabeth also hopes for AlbertaSat balloon projects to become a prevalent aspect of the team, since they allow for members to have hands-on experience, while also being able to have a variety of different payloads and multiple missions going on at once. The final thing Elizabeth said she hopes will be in the future for AlbertaSat is more collaborations with companies in the engineering industry to allow for more opportunities for AlbertaSat and its members. Elizabeth’s favourite memory while being with AlbertaSat was the unveiling of the Ex-Alta 1 exhibit at the Alberta Aviation Museum. She expressed her enjoyment of being able to teach and talk about Ex-Alta 1 and Ex-Alta 2’s design and mission.
Elizabeth’s final remark is advice to current and future AlbertaSat members. She says to make sure to try all new opportunities that come up, even if they may seem impossible or difficult, “the world is limitless with opportunities, and you won’t know unless you reach out”.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for all the work you currently do and have done for AlbertaSat. We all wish you luck in your future endeavours!