bmobile supports NIHERST program for NASA internships

Keenan Chatar in the Electrical and Computer Engineering lab at the UWI
Port of Spain, Trinidad, May 21, 2018


Working with the globally pioneering U.S. based space research centre, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a dream of almost every engineer. For the past four years, it’s a dream realised for at least seven T&T under-grad and post-grad student nationals. The NASA International Internship Program (NASA I2) was developed to facilitate a structured educational exchange among students from Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the world, to be mentored under the expert guidance of members of NASA’s science and engineering workforce.

The internship balances science and technology with issues of management, finance, social and human issues and bmobile has responded to the call from NIHERST for corporate support for the program. Niherst shortlisted students based on academic merit, exemplary character, exceptional potential for leadership and a student’s “sense of promise to make contributions of enduring importance toward the betterment of the human condition in Trinidad and Tobago.

 “This is the kind of opportunity that can dramatically change the trajectory of a young person’s life. We are especially supportive of the prospect that the interns can use what they learn to make a difference in some aspect of T&T’s own development when they return home” says Marsha Caballero, VP Corporate Communications at TSTT. “This totally complements bmobile’s own digital transformation aimed at positioning the company to better respond to current and future technological demands of business, government and households.”

Twenty-four-year-old Keenan Chatar from San Juan was one of four shortlisted TT nationals by Niherst and the top choice of two finalists selected by NASA for its 2018 intake. Chatar is a National Scholarship winner of the Hillview College alumni. He completed his undergrad studies at the University of the West Indies where he graduated with a BSc in Electrical and Computer Engineering, specialising in computer systems, with honours. He is currently pursuing his post-grad degree at UWI, the Masters level program in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a specialty in Integrated Systems. The internship will be during his semester break and he’s thrilled at the idea of working at NASA, “I’ll be working on a specific project, they allow us to work with supervisors at NASA and learn from them, do projects and hopefully publish papers, within the ten-week program.”

Benefitting his home country with what he can learn and create through this internship is what he hopes he can immediately do. He has been assigned to work on ground-breaking work alongside two NASA mentors: Jin Woo Han and Meyya Meyyappan. Chatar reveals he will be working on an On-Demand Manufacturing in Space project. He explains, he will be working with 3D technology with an aim to repair broken mechanical parts that may be needed on NASA’s International Space Station. “For instance, when parts need to be replaced or repaired like supercapacitors and micro-chips and so on, it requires NASA to shuttle these parts using separate rockets. Those payloads are very small but there are huge logistics needed for that which adds time and costs to a mission.” Chatar explains that the germinal project is trying to develop a printing technology or on-demand manufacturing in space, to be able to produce the components right where it’s needed, in space, so there is no need to shuttle parts back and forth.” A supervisor and former lecturer of Chatar, Akash Pooransingh, describes his former student as far too modest. A lecturer in Computer Systems at the UWI, department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Pooransingh says Chatar is an exceptional young man, “excellent worker and highly self-motivated. Some things I would give Keenan to do and he would complete it within a week and go much beyond what I asked of him. I was not surprised when he was selected for the internship at all.”

Chatar already knows what he wants to bring back to his home country. “I’m hoping that the exposure I get at NASA, with the 3D printing technology and the knowledge I will acquire is something I can use to expand on at UWI. There’s not much of the 3D technology locally, and I’d like to play a part in research and development of the technology in Trinidad. I’m hoping I can get some novel work going and get a project started. I want to create something new at UWI, maybe even a possible collaboration with NASA research.”

The NASA I2 program will take place at its Ames Research Centre in Mountain View, California from June 4th to August 10th.