Space to innovate

Koch engineer’s winning idea to help NASA solve an intergalactic space waste problem.

May 3, 2019

min read

As a lifelong NASA enthusiast, Derek McFall isn’t afraid to jump into the unknown. But the SRG Global product development engineer has reached a new pinnacle in his quest for solving real-world problems. McFall recently placed second in NASA’s Recycling in Space Challenge for his microgravity waste management system, an idea to which he’s dedicated more than 150 hours of precious spare time over the past several months.

2019-WHQ-Derek-McFall-point-Square-1.jpgMcFall is proud to work for a company that enables him to pursue his passion for improving the world. “SRG Global celebrates individualism more than other organizations I’ve been a part of. If you have an affinity for some skill outside of your typical role, it’s encouraged.”

After recognizing his love for solving problems, McFall set his sights on space early. In first grade, he wrote “I want to be an engineer” on a piece of paper and placed it time capsule. When he opened it in high school, he was well on his way. Today, McFall brings napkin sketches and clay models to life at his job in Troy, Michigan.

But McFall pursues his passion beyond the office too, finding knowledge and fulfillment in local astronomy groups, attending space symposiums and, of course, helping NASA scientists by submitting ideas in their open challenges. This Recycling in Space problem particularly sparked his interest, and it stretched his skills and creativity. His final submission could help NASA solve a big problem: space waste. McFall’s design accepts space waste, whether it’s a solid, liquid or gas, and breaks it down before feeding it to a reactor to reclaim the material. Basically, it turns trash into fuel.

McFall says he is honored and thrilled to have received $2,500 for his submission, but the true reward is the knowledge he’s gained – and the feeling of achievement.

SRG Global is a subsidiary of Guardian Industries, a Koch company.

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