Under 30 and Rising: Troubleshooting gas turbines at work and robots at home
At work, Mahir AlSadi is a technical field advisor for GE Gas Power in Iraq, helping install and repair gas turbines that provide electricity to businesses and communities. At home, he’s an inventor feeding his childhood passion for robots.
Recently, he’s built an ultrasonic level detector and a robotic arm that use Arduino microcontrollers. His latest project is an “infinity plotter.” It is a tiny wheeled device with a pen that can be programmed to draw a shape across any surface of any size. Conventional plotters are constrained by the length and width of the plotting device. “But with this one, there is no limitation on how long you draw or any type of zigzag or shape you want,” Mahir says.
That he’s succeeded with these inventions is not surprising given that failure for Mahir “means you’re working. It means you’re not sitting around doing nothing. Failure is normal, and we should take advantage of it.”
He also considers that stumbling into success by accident provides no comfort. “If you face the same problem again, you won’t know how to solve it. You need to do the work.”
Facing challenges is something Mahir knows a lot about, because it’s the favorite part of his job. “Actually, it only becomes my favorite part after I finish it. Basically, it’s troubleshooting problems and investigating issues, and asking: ‘Why did this happen? What caused it, and then what caused that?”
No matter how difficult the work, it doesn’t compare to the biggest challenge he’s ever faced: getting to school during armed conflicts in Baghdad. “We would be running and then we’d see soldiers who would signal to us to go back and take another route. Or we’d come to a highway and wait – not for the cars to pass so we could cross, but for the bullets to stop. We could hear the bullets going by.”
Then he would get to school and have to take an exam. “I remember looking at the next question and thinking ‘I know how to solve this.’ Then there would be an explosion and gunshots and the vibration of the blast would go through all of us. I’d then pick up my pen and have no clue what I was thinking a few seconds ago.”
One thing he’s sure of is the importance of family and the role it has played in his success. Listing his father, mother, two brothers and sister, he says, “Being the youngest, all of them were my parents at one time or another.”