By John Mabanta and Thao Nguyen

Hans Jarales is a fourth-year electrical engineering student at the University of Alberta. He initially joined the Admin team and helped create programming lessons for Grades 10 to 12 for the Educational Outreach team. Today, he is a member of the ADCS team, which is responsible for developing the component that ‘steers’ the Ex-Alta 2 satellite.

Engineering had always been a career path engrained in Hans’ mind. As a child, he loved playing with LEGOs and building all kinds of wacky and intricate structures with just these small plastic bricks. Later on, he became interested in computer programming and working with electronics which unlocked a whole new avenue for creation. The combination of both of these passions led Hans to pursue a career in engineering.

One of Hans’ greatest accomplishments during his time in AlbertaSAT would be the work he’s done testing and developing the ADCS on the Ex-Alta 2. It is a crucial component in the project, as it uses the Earth’s magnetic field to steer the satellite. He found it fulfilling to not only work on an integral part of the satellite but to also test the work his team has done and to witness the ‘fruits of their labor’.

His role in ADCS testing is one of his key motivators, especially during the pandemic. A lot of his work testing and designing requires him to be on-site and hands-on with the project. Thus, he isn’t bogged down by an endless sea of Zoom meetings that drone on for ages. Being able to see the impact of his contributions to a satellite in person is something that can be incredibly rewarding, especially since that same satellite would one day be orbiting our planet.

One of the main challenges that Hans and his team are facing right now is binary testing, and trying to get the ADCS module to communicate with Athena, Ex-Alta 2’s onboard computer. There are many interconnected pieces in a project such as a satellite and it is crucial to have every component working cohesively as a singular unit. Thus, it is challenging not only to make sure that the ADCS can talk with the ‘brains’ of the whole satellite, but also to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with the functionality of other components worked on by other teams. Another challenge is magnetics testing, which is to make sure that the ADCS can steer the satellite properly when it is orbiting in outer space. Of course, it is often hard to mimic outer space conditions here on Earth, and thus Hans and his team have to derive creative solutions in order to accomplish this task.

Throughout our interview with Hans, the one skill that he finds the most important to develop is communication. He stresses the importance of being able to effectively express one’s ideas, especially within a large team that deals with complex topics. A lot of Hans’ work involves coordinating with professors, advisors, and other students to arrange testing environments for the ADCS. He found that his experience in both the ADCS and the Admin teams was immensely beneficial to developing strong communication skills. He encourages others to seek out opportunities like these.

When asked for his plans for the future, Hans wants to pursue a career in designing and developing embedded systems that work together to fulfill a larger purpose. He plans to seek out opportunities in the aerospace industry, where he can apply his experience from working on Ex-Alta 2 and his passion for building and creating.

For those interested in joining AlbertaSAT–and specifically those interested in joining a technical team–Hans’ best advice is to “just go ahead and apply”. He feels that there is a lot of demand for more technical people, both in the real world and in the team, and that AlbertaSAT is always eager to hear from new perspectives regardless of current experience. However, he cautions that members should try to find a healthy balance in life, as you can easily get burnt out by the immense workload inherent to university.

For new members of the team, Hans encourages them to not be afraid of asking questions. Everyone on the team is really friendly and is keen on ensuring your success in and out of AlbertaSAT. Hans strongly believes that you can make the most out of your time here by getting to know more about the project and by becoming increasingly involved with the project.