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Bradwin Vermeulen – HERA General Worker
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R. Sean Oliphant – Mathematics teacher at Carnarvon High School
SARAO staff member leads 2018 NRAO NINE Program
SARAO News #02 2018
SARAO Science Engagement Manager, Anja Fourie, has returned to Cape Town after an eight-week secondment to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), USA.
She was seconded to the NRAO as Program Lead for the observatory’s 2018 National and International Non-Traditional Exchange (NINE) Program, which was held at the NRAO Headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia from 1 June – 31 July 2018.
The NRAO NINE Program uses bilateral partnerships to develop human capacity and promote diversity in radio astronomy and other STEM fields required to plan, build, operate and use radio astronomy facilities around the world.
NRAO NINE participants, selected from under-represented groups in the USA or developing countries, complete a short, intense training programme in project management and other sustainable skills relevant to radio astronomy, and are then required to apply what was learned to technical projects defined and scoped by the NRAO. Each participant, upon returning to their home organisation, is required to establish a NINE Hub in their home organisation or country and take on the role of a NINE trainer in their field of experience and the skills learnt during the programme.
As the NRAO NINE Program Lead, Fourie was required to manage the 2018 programme; train participants from the Caribbean in the project management life cycle; and supervise participants as they applied their new project management skills to technical projects and to the development of project management documentation for the establishment of NINE Hubs in the Caribbean.
She trained and supervised Alex Fortenberry, a third-year Physics student at the University of the Virgin Islands and Jason Renwick, a BSc Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. Both participants were required to execute technical projects that used Raspberry Pi 3 units, Python and Very Large Array Sky Survey (VLASS) data to produce astronomy data images. Dr Brian Kent, a NRAO scientist working on data visualisation, supported Fourie as the NRAO NINE Technical Mentor.
Fourie was also invited to mentor other summer students placed at the NRAO Headquarters as part of the National Astronomy Consortium (NAC) Program, which aims to increase the numbers of students from under-represented and underserved groups studying in fields relevant to radio astronomy.
“The secondment was challenging, but also immensely satisfying. Managing a programme in a foreign observatory, retraining your brain in order to teach, learning new technical skills, and mentoring young professionals, all while trying to adapt to a different culture, was no walk in the park. But, watching participants master new skills, deliver projects useful to the sector, and grow as individuals, made it all worthwhile.”
As a science engagement specialist, Fourie was also afforded the opportunity to shadow senior management staff in the NRAO’s Education and Public Outreach, Science Communication and STEM Education offices to observe best practice.
“While the NRAO and SARAO are very different, the nature of our work means that many of the challenges we face are similar. As a young organisation, SARAO has had to be really smart and innovative about the way it approaches challenges, in order for it to become one of the best observatories in the world in a very short space of time.”
And the highlight of her secondment? “On the Monday after the MeerKAT inauguration, I arrived at the NRAO to find an A3 colour print-out of the MeerKAT Centre of the Milky Way image on one of the office doors. Someone had inscribed the words ‘MeerKAT is AWESOME’ below the image. I don’t think I have ever been so proud to be a part of SARAO or South African.”
Fourie is currently working with the 2018 NRAO NINE participants to finalise a draft curriculum to teach high school students and other NINE participants to use low-cost computing units, open source software and large radio astronomy data sets to produce astronomy data images. NINE Hub Leads in the Caribbean, South Africa and the USA are also currently working on a project plan and proposal for training exchanges between the three Hubs and to identify best practice from the programme for use by the SKA AVN Communications and the SKA Communications and Outreach Network (SKACON).
Big Data Attendees at the one-day work session which was held on 11 July 2017 at the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in Ghana to kick off the High Performance Computing training programme in Ghana.
Members of the nine SKA African partner countries concluded the Fourth Ministerial Meeting on the SKA in Accra, Ghana by signing a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on radio astronomy.
Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor watches on as the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cuts the ribbon at the launch of the Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory.
The launch of the Ghana Radio Astronomy Observatory was covered 119 times in the media between 23 and 25 August 2017:
In Ghana: 24 times
In South Africa: 36 times
In other African countries: 8 times
Internationally: 51 times
The value of these placements is R6 983 234.17.
Last Updated on November 19, 2018