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  • Writer's pictureGWMP

Engineering the Solutions: Sebastián Barquín Sanchez

Sebastián Barquín Sanchez can recall many moments in his life that have opened his eyes to the urgency of the climate crisis, but he eagerly shares the moment that “lit a fire” in him.

“I remember watching a documentary in high school about overall global warming and waste issues. They were showing this island near Fiji called Tuvalu where all the trash in the Pacific Ocean would end up due to currents. It was crazy to see a washing machine washed up on a beach or parts of cars washed up on a beach. That documentary lit a fire in me to help work on this bigger problem we have on this planet. And more importantly that I can help fix it.”

The video, however, wasn’t the first issue that grabbed his attention. Growing up in Venezuela, the Cornell student has spent time travelling and living in Panama, Mexico City, Switzerland, Connecticut and Miami, among other locations. “My passion for this issue comes from living in and visiting other countries. In Panama, for example, you can just see the clouds of smoke in cities from the cars. It’s astonishing how much traffic dictates the amount of pollution in the air, how far you can see, how much sunlight you can see, or how clean the water looks. We saw the effects of this during quarantine in India when people weren’t allowed to go out. Pollution went way down. People could see the sky for the first time in years. With an understanding of the negative effects of climate change, mechanical engineering has always appealed to Sebastián as it proved a way to actually make a difference. “I’ve always recognized the need for sustainability and more sustainable, economical and durable transportation. It really made me think that I can and want to be a mechanical engineer to work and have an effect on this problem.”

Sebastian is now studying his passion and recently has had the opportunity to combine mechanical engineering and sustainability as an intern with the Global Warming Mitigation Project’s Constellations program. The program launched this summer, connecting students with virtual, remote positions at important organizations that fight global warming. Sebastián's internship opportunity is with New Leaf Dynamic in India. He works toward creating refrigeration systems for remote farms in India that utilize organic farm waste as a fuel source. This allows these farms to bypass traditional power sources limiting their use of fossil fuels. The refrigeration systems also provide crucial time for farmers to bring products to market, and thus provides both a financial and environmental benefit.

“I’ve been helping them make some design changes. I grab data from heat transfer mechanisms and try to figure out what changes need to be made. Any issues they are having that I can fix remotely I help them with.”

Sebastián collaborates with the team despite a 10 hour time difference between Miami and India, meeting at 10 am while the New Leaf Dynamic team is finishing work at 8 pm. In his internship Sebastian is excited that he can see the effects of his work solving a real world problem. He describes how it's rare in his field for mechanical engineers to focus on these important projects.

“I feel like sustainability is more important today than space exploration, which at times seems everyone else in mechanical engineering is interested in. I never understood the passion behind space exploration when we have this problem right here on our planet that we need to fix and can solve.”


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