Mechanical Engineer

Alex Surasky-Ysasi

For me, engineering is about seeing the big picture and then being able to understand how the details of any solution will affect it. I have to balance user needs, which drive the feel of a product and its required functionality, with how it fits into the business plan of the company that makes and sells it. The details include everything from making sure the design is suited to the manufacturing process – keeping costs low – to ensuring that there are radii on all corners of a product so that a user won’t scrape their hand on it. To me, the challenge and the fun is making it all work together.

My career has involved developing products for all kinds of people in all kinds of places – everything from small-scale hydroelectric systems for coffee cooperatives in Guatemala, to spray coolant systems for U.S. steel plants, to push carts for farmers in Tanzania, to food processing and packaging equipment that is used nationwide. I studied mechanical engineering at Brown University and product development at Carnegie Mellon University.

I want to leverage engineering and design thinking to empower others and give them the opportunity to create the lives they imagine.

I love playing and watching soccer because there are so many levels of complexity to the game and a huge variety of strategies that can win. I love the way the game often reflects the culture in which a team is grounded. I enjoy making, fixing and optimizing things at home. In my spare time, I am working with a small team to create a portable emergency winter shelter for homeless individuals called Satellite Shelter.

First memory of design thinking
My grandfather made violins by hand and he used to let me sit in his workshop while he worked. I remember being fascinated by all the particular tools he used; some of which were really big and others were really small. I could tell that they all had a purpose and I felt a sense of wonder that he was creating this musical instrument. No two instruments that he built were exactly the same; he would tweak his design or try other people’s designs. I still feel that sense of wonder when I see something I work on become real.