Talent Spotlight on Mangai Prabakar, Mechanical Engineer
Talent Spotlight is a regular feature profiling the employees of Product Creation Studio. See the Talent Spotlight archive for more interviews.
What led you to a career in product development?
As a daughter of an engineer and a scientist, combined with a thirst for adventure, my early start was primed for self-learning and discovery of the unknown, from under the microscope to through the telescope.
I earned my Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering – Mechanical concentration from the University of Miami and all certifications to become a self-taught Certified SolidWorks Expert (1 of 1792 worldwide). It has allowed me to work on a variety of projects from medical research to robotics design for disabled veterans featured on the Discovery Channel, to designing with 150+ 3D printers for Shark Tank inventors to virtual reality, to product development and regulation.
I also had the honor of learning medical device regulation and compliance under ASQ Certified Quality Engineer Roberta Goode, President and CEO of Goode Compliance International during my graduate studies.
This versatile and malleable field has provided a brilliant gateway for helping others through multidisciplinary innovation.
What excites you most about your job?
What drew me to Product Creation Studio was the initial interaction I had with the leadership team. It was immediately apparent that while they produced quality innovation, they fostered a fair and promising environment held to a high moral standard. The fast tempo of project diversity and fun challenges can be found in many places, but rarely does it synchronize with an altruistic vision like Product Creation Studio.
It is also fantastic that we have our own in-house machine shop, wood shop, electrical lab, and 3D printing as fabrication resources to build quick mock-ups and prototypes for testing!
Describe your most rewarding work experience to date.
When I was asked to work on the Aquarius Reef Base, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t just asked by Captain Nemo to work on the Nautilus.
The Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea laboratory, was one of the coolest and most rewarding projects for me. Located 60 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys, Aquarius is used for astronaut training, telesurgery experiments, and ocean research on coral reefs, ocean acidification, climate change, and fisheries. It is one of the few places on Earth where you can find both aquanauts and NASA astronauts, who regularly visit for training. In fact, during my time, Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, Fabien Cousteau and crew embarked on Mission 31, collecting two-year’s worth of data and breaking the record by living 31 days underwater aboard the Aquarius Reef Base, which can be likened to the International Space Station sitting on the ocean floor.
I created fly through 3D animations and a custom 3D CAD model of the entire Aquarius undersea lab exterior and interior architecture giving the public, Congress, and media an in-depth look into its infrastructure and aquanaut living quarters. I then fabricated a large-scale physical 3D model with 3D printing that accurately depicted this undersea research habitat, complete with blinking interactive mission control.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I have always enjoyed creating immersive environments and highly imaginative experiences for others.
It started simple with home movie theatres and haunted houses to then creating engaging museum guest experiences at places like the Smithsonian with 3D CAD modeling, both scientific and whimsical. I design scenic illusions and transformations using special effects for an amalgamation of design engineering and storytelling to elicit emotions of universal wonder and curiosity from all ages.
My favorite tools of choice are fiber optic lighting, forced perspective, and shadow illusions. I am always looking for new techniques and technologies to add to new projects, with my last impressive trip being to the Holographic Studios Subterranean Laser Laboratory in NYC.
Besides that, most of my hours outside of work are consumed by a balance of Judo and Jiu Jitsu. Having grown up doing Shaolin Quan, it is one of the greatest joys.
What is something about you people would be surprised to know?
Only years after I had published a book of poetry under a pen name, did I learn that my great-great-grandfather was a poet in a king’s court in India.
If you asked everyone who ever knew me growing up, they would have said I would become either an astronomer, voice actor, or Disney animator.