Derek McFall

Product Development Engineer, SRG Global   

“If you have an affinity for some skill outside of your typical role, embrace it and use it. We encourage that here.”

Derek McFall’s winning idea to help NASA solve an intergalactic space waste problem.

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. Derek has previously 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 several months leading up to the challenge.

A passion for improving the world

Derek is proud to work for a company that enables him to pursue his passion for improving the world. He says, “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, Derek 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, Derek brings napkin sketches and clay models to life at his job in Troy, Michigan.

Finding knowledge and fulfillment

But Derek 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. His 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.

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