UWI Today March 2015 - page 23

On our daily routine, we’d get up at the same
time because we shared an apartment together.
Did you know each other before?
No. We pretty much met on the plane going. We
met each other before and shook hands for a pic,
but we had our first convo on the plane going to
JA: Was this your first time in California?
What would you say was the most surprising
aspect of your internship?
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle all the
work. I thought they would give me something
far beyond what I was able to achieve, but it
wasn’t like that. If I ever encountered a problem,
I always had assistance from my mentor. I never
felt like anything was out of my reach.
I have a similar opinion. I only completed one
year of university. In my group they aren’t
accustomed to getting undergraduate interns
because Prognostics is such a specific field
that most people only really get into it at the
Postgraduate level. I thought I’d be head over
heels in work, but it was really manageable.  
JA: How did it feel to be representing Trinidad
and Tobago and The UWI?
I found that everyone there was quite welcoming
to Jason and me. They had a little problem with
our accents, and we’d have to repeat ourselves
and we’d talk a bit slower than normal. There is a
large array of races. We did not feel out of place.
We were in the heart of Silicon Valley and race
doesn’t exist in Silicon Valley. In Mountain View –
it’s a very metropolitan city, there is no dominant
race, no one classified anyone by their race, and
I didn’t feel any racism or exclusion. That was a
pleasant surprise.
JA: Definitely sounds utopian. How do you think
that your experience at UWI prepared you for
your NASA experience?
It prepared me a lot. In one year of Electrical
Engineering, we do a lot of work, lots of hands-
on experience with circuits and electronics; so
once I was introduced to an electronics lab, I
already had a predisposition to working with
the parts. I may not have known everything but
it wasn’t hard for me to learn how to operate in
that environment.
What I did was more specific to Artificial
Intelligence with machinery. In UWI, there is a
course on Intelligent Systems. Because of this
course and the courses before it, it gave me a
good overall view of everything so applying it to
a real world system was a bit different, but I was
able to apply my knowledge to the problem.
JA: How do you think your internship has
changed the way you look at UWI and
Trinidad and Tobago?
It’s no secret to anyone that we aren’t very strong
in the research and development field in the
Caribbean and after being exposed to such a
heavy research environment, we could build
something like this in T&T or at UWI. We have
the minds for it. We have the resources for it. We
may not be able to embark on the same scale as
NASA, but we can get a foot into the scientific
research community and maybe we or future
interns can get to start the ball rolling and do
research that is applicable to the real world.
Right now, we thrive off of industrial work and
we all know what’s going on with oil right now.
Staying with only an industrial-based economy
may not be adequate for the country.
I have the same opinion. When you go there, we
were in NASA AMES Research Center and there
were a lot of companies – Google, Facebook,
there is a lot of research being done and when
you see Stanford University and Berkeley nearby,
and the number of PhD students – there’s a
lot of research and development going on in
Silicon Valley and that is the opposite of what is
happening in T&T. You don’t see a lot of students
saying, I would like to have a PhD in so and so,
because it’s industrial, so a lot of people have
a Bachelor’s or a Master’s in any STEM field and
once you have that, you say that’s enough. They
don’t think further: What if I do a PhD? I can
develop software. I can develop circuits that will
be used at major companies. If Jason and I and
other interns can bring that back to Trinidad and
Tobago that would be a great thing to say: T&T
has academics of a high standard doing this sort
of research right here.
Right now people see that bpTT and (Atlantic)
LNG are the top paying companies and they
are industrial companies, so everyone wants to
get there, but these companies are starting to
lay off workers because they aren’t as profitable
anymore, so the scientific community in T&T is
going to need a new avenue of employment,
a way to bring some income to the university,
country; and I think research is an adequate way
to do that.
How do you see UWI doing that?
UWI is perfect for that. There is research being
done and there is a gap between the research
being developed and it becoming profitable.
Right now it may not be as profitable to
develop all the research done into a commercial
application just because industrial practices
are way more profitable for the country, but
once we continue to develop our research into
commercial applications, then it may become
more profitable than industrial in the coming
With programmes like Elon Musk and Space X
taking over, how do you feel about emerging
opportunities for UWI students in terms of
space exploration or privatisation of space
Any field, any business, thrives on competition
and the fact that private companies are now
getting into space exploration gives science a
competitive edge. Before space exploration was
just government, so now that Elon Musk and
Richard Branson’s Virgin are involved, they will
have to push the boundaries faster and harder
and it creates more job opportunities and gives
anybody who studied STEM new job fields and it
would be accessible to Caribbean students. After
working at NASA, I can say that UWI students can
hold their own in the scientific community.
When we see these other companies like Space
X trying to do space exploration and these
opportunities being available, we could reach
that level. We are good enough and I believe that
space exploration is a definite avenue.
What advice would you give to a first year UWI
Don’t limit yourself. Don’t limit yourself to what’s
available in T&T. There are more opportunities
than what’s available at NASA. When I was at
NASA, I asked myself, what other opportunities
are out there that you wouldn’t initially take
advantage of? There are a lot of opportunities for
international students. Also bring back what you
learn to T&T.
I would recommend don’t underestimate
JA: Why do you think that students have this
myopic view of themselves?
I think that goes back to our colonial days;
this part of the world was oppressed to think
that they weren’t as good as others and that’s
definitely untrue. Getting a degree from UWI
doesn’t put you behind the foreign students.
I think that once a student really applies
themselves, it can get them somewhere. For
example, I was pretty pessimistic about
getting the NASA internship because I was
only a year one student. I was told there were
postgrad students applying and hearing that,
I know that I can’t compete with a year three
electrical engineering student, but I put that
aside and I decided that I’m going to give it my
all. One thing I learned at NASA is that in the
international scientific community – it’s not
about what you know or where you come from,
but how fast you can learn and apply what you
JA: We know you’re going to return to NASA,
but what else do you see for yourself in the
Immediate: Finish my first degree, I have to
return in September 2015 and finish and
complete my Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering
and after that, I can’t say for sure, but one thing
I do know for sure, is that I hope that one day
in T&T, we can actually have a strong footing
in research and development internationally. I
think that myself, Stefan and future interns could
actually come together and start developing
more prominent projects in the research and
development field right here in Trinidad and
Tobago that can compete with NASA.
: From what Jason said, in the immediate future,
I would like to pursue my Master’s and my PhD
away then bring that knowledge back to T&T
especially my field, Artificial Intelligence. I would
like to pursue this research and development
aspect and I would like to bring that knowledge
back and help Trinidad and Tobago grow.
“Getting a degree from UWI doesn’t put you behind the foreign students.”
—Jason Renwick
1...,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22 24
Powered by FlippingBook