Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Flying high

It’s a rite of passage and we’ve all had to give an account of how we spent our summer vacation, whether orally or via the written word, and one Barretarre, Exuma native certainly has a thrilling report to give after a two-month internship at the Florida Space Grant Consortium and Kennedy Space Center.

“My summer internship was a wonderful experience.  It exceeded all of my expectations,” said Revardo McKenzie who was given the opportunity to work on various projects that exposed him to researchers in a cross section of fields in the engineering and science programs.

McKenzie, 18, who interned alongside a number of high school and college students worked on projects that had him helping to build payloads, or small instruments for small satellites.  He helped to build and design a payload instrument that is used for collecting temperature and wind speed data.  He was also involved in the construction of weather balloons that carry instruments into the atmosphere and send back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature and wind speed.

As part of the student-led research group, he participated in a weather balloon launch, using a device called radiosonde to obtain wind data, which they tracked by radar.  The group also used a global positioning system (GPS) attached with a camera (to view the earth’s surface as the balloon launched into the atmosphere) to navigate the weather balloon.

In addition to the hands-on research activities he helped conduct, McKenzie was mentored in astronomy by Dr. Jaydeep Mukherjee.  It was a subject he says he found most interesting, next to the weather balloon launch.

“I was able to conduct research using an optical telescope that was a replica of the original one invented by Galileo.  This instrument enables observations of stars, which give scientists clues on how these stars are composed,” he said.

Dr. Mukherjee, director of the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium and interim director fo the Florida Space Institute Center for Space Education, described McKenzie as one of the best interns he had, adding that the Bahamian teenager was even better than some of the college interns.

“He started his internship by participating in a high altitude balloon workshop for a group of high school students [and] Vardo did an exceptional job.  He was instrumental in designing the box which housed the electronics,” said Dr. Mukherjee.  “Later on, Vardo assembled a telescope, just like the one that Galileo had assembled 400 years ago.  Vardo assisted me with a software that we plan to use to monitor the radio waves from Jupiter and the sun.  He also learned a lot about astronomy and conducted a number of astronomy simulations.  Vardo was a very quick learner and has a great appetite for knowledge.  He would read the astronomy text book I had given him and also read articles on the internet.  I believe Vardo can do both science and engineering equally well, and I see a very bright future for him.”

McKenzie who would like to some day study engineering said the Kennedy Space Center internship gave him the opportunity to get involved in many different facets of engineering through the projects he worked on.

“This summer internship has helped me learn more about my field of engineering and motivated me to go to college and help me on my path for a great career.  Based on this internship, my goal is to continue to work on building my knowledge and abilities in engineering and stay focused for my journey towards success.”

The Exuma native was able to participate in the internship as the winner of the Alf Thompson Memorial Scholarship granted by the Bahamas Marine EcoCentre (BME), formerly the Danguillecourt Project, a non-profit environmental organization that promotes awareness and respect for the unique Bahamian land and seascapes through creative activities fostering environmental stewardship.

“When I got accepted as an intern for NASA, I knew I had been given a great opportunity, but the actual internship experience was so much more rewarding than I could possibly have expected.  Over the past two months I have had the opportunity to attend career fairs, watch a space shuttle launch as well as other activities.  I have been given the tools and training to accomplish many things in engineering.  I have learned more in one short summer than I typically do in an entire year.  The atmosphere was very positive and the people were great to work with.  Things were always on the move at the Kennedy Space Center.  Lastly, and most importantly, I learned that the way to become your best is to work hard and seize every opportunity to learn new things.”

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