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MIAD Industrial Design senior reaches new heights as NASA intern

MILWAUKEE … September 12, 2019  Veteran. Husband. Student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD).

David Gabriel can now add “NASA Intern” to the list.

The Industrial Design senior spent his summer in Huntsville, Ala., at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center working with the Deep Space Habitat Human Factors Engineering Group. David is one of several MIAD students who interned in Milwaukee and worldwide this past summer with businesses such as The NFL Experience, Louis Vuitton, Delta Faucet, Fiskars, Kohl’s Corporation, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, General Motors, Newell Rubbermaid, Tommy Hilfiger and Weyco Group.


All his life, David has been interested in flying, roller coasters and spaceships. When a MIAD creative writing course taught by Barbara McLaughlin pushed him to really consider his dream job, he knew that it would be in the realm of space, aerospace and exploration. NASA became the clear place to pursue an internship.

David says he was so excited to get an acceptance call from NASA that he lost feeling in his legs. That was only temporary, but the excitement lasted throughout his internship experience.

Working with the Deep Space Habitat Human Factors Engineering Group, “the question we would ask ourselves is, how do parts of a spaceship go together?” says David.


David’s specific task during his internship was to redesign a spaceship kitchen area for NASA’s Moon Operations spaceship, which is a stepping stone to a trip to Mars.

The centerpiece of the kitchen is the kitchen table, and David spent countless hours researching the best table design. It sounds simple, but is actually incredibly important.

“Something as ordinary as a table gives crew members a sense of community, which they need if they’re going to be isolated in space for 1,000 days,” says David.

A big challenge was how to design the best possible table, but also not take up too much precious space in the spaceship. The solution? Make it collapsible.

David built a prototype, and it still exists in NASA’s Deep Space habitat.


Coming up with solutions to problems was something David did a lot when he served in the US Army for five and a half years.

One example came while he was deployed in Afghanistan, working with Seal Team 4 in village stability operations. The village they were assigned to was blocked off by water, and couldn’t easily communicate with neighboring villages about safety and other concerns.

Working with only parachutes, rope and pallets that had been dropped from helicopters in the night, David and his team built a bridge over the water.

“We employed user empathy and creativity to provide a sustainable solution for the people of this village.”


David’s resourcefulness is a quality that helped him secure the NASA internship, and one that will help him as he searches for employment after graduation.

David plans to continue working with NASA throughout his senior year, including for his senior thesis project. Upon graduation, he would like to work at NASA or another big company like Boeing, Lockheed Martin or SpaceX.

Previously, David interned at Flux Design, a company owned by MIAD alumnus Jeremy Shamrowicz ‘98. There, he participated in design building, welding and fabrication.

As a US Veteran, David benefits from the GI Bill. But he’s also very appreciative for other scholarships, like the Wisconsin Grant and MIAD’s Presidential Scholarship, that have allowed him to attend MIAD and have these kinds of internship experiences.

“I’ve been really fortunate to be able to focus on school, and not worry as much about finances.”

David is also grateful for MIAD’s Industrial Design program for the foundation of learning it has provided, and especially for the skills he now has to communicate his ideas to others, whether they be marketing executives, users or fellow designers.

“Curricular projects with companies like Delta Faucet and Fiskars have driven home the importance of being able to guide an audience through my ideas.”

MIAD offers an accredited Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program in five majors – Communication DesignIllustrationIndustrial DesignInterior Architecture and Design and New Studio Practice: Fine Arts – and has 18 academic minors, including Arts Management, Furniture Design and Digital Media Production. Graduates work at companies and organizations such as Kohl’s, Fiskars, GE Healthcare, Google, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee Tool, Trek and more.


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