MecE Students Flying High and Feeling Queasy


Farhad Ismal and Ryan Baily outside the NRC's Flight Research Lab in Ottawa this week

Two recent graduates from Mechanical Engineering are in for a unique summer vacation this year – a nausea inducing one! Members of the iSSELab are in Ottawa in preparation for next week when they will travel aboard the National Research Council of Canada’s Falcon 20 aircraft as it performs 12 parabolic maneuvers in order to simulate the microgravity conditions. By all accounts, the trip can make you feel pretty bad.

The students are members of Dr. Prashant Waghmare’s research group, Team iSSELab, and recently won a nation-wide competition called Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-Canada) to earn their chance for this trip of a lifetime.

While on board, the students will run experiments to determine the effects of micro-gravity on droplets formed by 3D printers. It’s hoped that in the future astronauts aboard the international space station will be able to make use of 3D printers to make parts and materials they require. At the moment, however, we do not know how 3D printers work in space.

Five members of team iSSELab will be in Ottawa for the tests but only the two undergraduates will take the flight do the actual work. Those two students flew out to Ottawa ahead of the rest of the team this week and it’s a good thing they did. Some components of the 3D printer had slipped in transport and the students have spent the latter part of this week repairing the pieces.

Depending on conditions the flight will take place either Monday, July 24 or Tuesday, July 25. As the plane performs the parabolic maneuvers, the students will run the 3D printing experiments, following a strict protocol, which they practiced for weeks before leaving in order to make it second nature during the experiment itself. Once they’re down the team will spend the remainder of the week analyzing the data and determining the effects of micro-gravity on 3D printing processes.

Watch this space to find out what they learned. And how they felt while they did it!