Thursday, Aug 22, 2019
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To the moon and back

When Alexiou Gibson takes something apart, his mother, Mavis Smith no longer gets angry because she knows he can put it back together — well … that’s according to Gibson.  It seems she should believe him too, after he participated in the ultimate “tinkering” experience, to build a prototype robot rover for NASA.

Gibson, 24, a student at Palm Beach State College was one of 48 students that participated in the National Community College Aerospace Scholars Class of 2011 program, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, November 8-10.

“It definitely was a great experience, and after working hands on with engineers and physicists, I know exactly what goes on, and I know this is the career path I know I want to be in,” said the biomedical engineering student.  I hope it opens scholarship doors, so that I can stay in school and ultimately obtain my doctorate degree.”

Gibson, who was born and raised in Freeport, Grand Bahama, where he lived until age 10, participated in tours, seminars and briefings with NASA scientists and engineers.

The students were split into four groups to come up with a rover robot design.  Gibson was named procurement manager for his team.  He was in charge of ensuring his team stayed within their allotted $125 million to build their prototype.  He was also responsible for managing all of the robot’s parts

As procurement manager, he ultimately had to give the presentation to the NASA board once their robot rover was designed, and convince the board to choose their design over the design of the other three teams.

Gibson’s group built a prototype that had satellites, as well as panoramic cameras to allow the device to take pictures once it is put on Mars, to send back to earth via satellite signal.  It also has claws that allowed it to pick up rock samples.  Their prototype even had a water compartment to collect water samples, which Gibson said was a big challenge for them.  Mixing water with electronics can be a very bad idea.  His group was the only team that was successful in having their prototype carry water.

Gibson’s group did not win the competition, but in the final analysis, the board ended up taking bits and pieces from each of the group’s designs for the final product.  His group’s contribution to the final robot rover, were the wheels, and their water compartment.

His group also scored the highest in presentation, scored at 27 out of a perfect 28 score, one point short from perfect.  The other teams were scored at 10, 11 and 12.  Through giving really great presentations, and showing that what they did was efficient, Gibson’s group’s budgets rose to $210 million.

“It was a great experience and I learned a lot,” he said.

Since this NASA experience, Gibson been invited to speak to children at various places which he finds a blessing, because he gets to impact the lives of others.

He’s also getting a lot of attention on his college campus for more than just being a guy who dropped almost half his body weight, and is down to 290 pounds from 525 pounds.

After graduating from Palm Beach State College, he wants to attend either the University of Florida, or Boston University.  And has plans to return to The Bahamas to bridge the gap between research and technology and doctors.

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