Aliah Rubio acts as testing lead for Micro-G NEXT team
This summer, AE sophomore Aliah Rubio acted as one of the team leads for the 2023 NASA Micro-G NEXT team when they traveled to Houston to demonstrate the team’s zip tie dispenser in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. Even before her freshman year, though, Rubio was sure she wanted to pursue aerospace engineering.
“I wanted to do aerospace engineering since I was a freshman in high school, so I've been working up to that throughout,” she said. “I knew I wanted to go to UIUC and join this club specifically.”
Rubio heard of Micro-G prior to her freshman year through the Illinois Space Society Twitter account. Keeping up with the account led her interest for the team to grow.
“I found the work to be very interesting and unique,” Rubio said. “It’s provided a hands-on experience and it was also connected with NASA. I knew I wanted to work for NASA, so this was the perfect opportunity.”
Although there were multiple projects to choose from, Rubio’s team favored the zip tie dispenser because it was both interesting and within their capabilities.
“For this year, we chose the zip tie installer challenge. The overall challenge was to design and manufacture a device that can install a zip tie during an extracurricular activity,” Rubio said. “When they go outside of the space station in microgravity, it's hard for an astronaut to zip tie something because they have those big gloves. That's the problem I was trying to fix.”
Despite being a freshman at the time, Rubio helped lead her team throughout the school year so their project could be ready for the summer.
“It was a bit nerve wracking as a first-year student as I had no idea what I was doing. In the end, it was very rewarding,” she said. “The team was very small, so it was satisfying to see our work come to fruition. Everyone had their own part in it. People were very dedicated.”
In addition to Rubio, the other team members who were at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab for testing were: lead Alex Broillette, manufacturing lead Jeremy Zang; and general member Evan Jurcenko. Micro-G has always had a smaller team, and Rubio said this allows for a unique hands-on experience.
“There's always something to do,” she said. “Some of the other student groups are really big. That's good, but if you're a freshman, you weave your way in and try to find your way to be part of something.”
Being involved with Micro-G provided Rubio and her team numerous opportunities they would not have found elsewhere. Rubio was able to give a presentation to 20 NASA engineers and said she would not have been able to do that without her RSO.
“This club shows the numerous aspects you can use your aerospace degree as opposed to just rockets,” she said.