Title: The path less travelled.
The adventures of building the African VLBI Network
Author: Mr Nkululeko Qwabe
Nkululeko Qwabe has been working on the AVN project of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) since July 2013. During this time he has been working in the development of software for the first AVN station in Kuntunse Ghana and other projects within SKA. As a small boy growing up in the remote town of Mtubatuba in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, he was always fascinated by the stars and the mystery of what lies beyond what the naked eye can see. This fueled his dream of one day working in Astronomy. As the person responsible for the all AVN VLBI backend systems, engagement and learning of various aspects of VLBI instrumentation, implementation and operations from experts from different organisations around the world, is required, for the translation and application of this knowledge to the development of the AVN stations across Africa. This talk takes you through the journey travelled by a young man from rural KwaZulu-Natal, working at the SKA on the AVN project. The focus is on the passion for outreach and educating the general public about Astronomy.
More about the author:
I joined the SKA in 2013 as a Junior Software Engineer to assist the Lead Software Engineer in designing, implementing, integrating, testing, deploying and maintaining software for the African VLBI Network telescopes. I am now working as a Software Engineer responsible for the VLBI backends and the Field System integration.
I am from a small town called Mtubatuba on the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal. I was born and bred, and got all my basic education there. I did a Computer Science degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) majoring in Computer Science and Information Systems. I have since worked for the CSIR as an intern GIS Software Developer and the Durban University of Technology as a Systems Administrator. I am also currently doing my honours in Computing with the University of South Africa (UNISA).
My role at the AVN is to write software, mostly interfaces between the VLBI backend system, the Field System and the Station Control software for AVN stations. This includes among other things; deriving software requirements from User Requirements, performing hardware-software integration and providing assistance and knowledge transfer to SKA partner countries.
I have been passionate about Astronomy from an early age. I am also passionate about outreach and knowledge transfer, especially to disadvantaged communities. I regularly take part in outreach events to teach communities and school children and students about Astronomy and Radio Astronomy.