Bhanekazi Thandwa (17) from Dr Nelson Mandela High School in Cape Town recently took part in the Space Trek bootcamp that saw 14 young women design, build and launch their very own satellites into the atmosphere using weather balloons. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience so Carla de Klerk talked with with Bhanekazi to hear her thoughts on the whole experience and find out what’s next for her.
Why did you want to be part of Space trek?
I found the first session, where we had to build a Jiggybot really interesting and I would like to know and experience more about electronics, as I have taken it as a consideration for a career. I really wanted to explore this field further so that I can hone my skills in these areas. This experience really helped me in giving me ideas about my career choices. I also love physics so I wanted to learn about the physical geography of the world and experience more greater things of science through the biggest programme of its like over the world.
What did you learn at Space Trek?
In this camp we learnt a lot as we got the chance to learnt through practical work. Now I know how electricity works! It was a great experience and great prep for the workplace one day as this experience will help us a lot in the future. At space Trek I experienced more about the geography of physics, I used to think physics was boring, and when I got to experience more and learn more here, I learnt that physics can actually be fun especially if you learn through practicals. Learning practically it is much easier than theory because in theory everything seems much harder because you aren’t actually interacting with the work.
I learnt about space, and temperature and how things work in space. I learnt about the geography of physics, how we can measure altitude and how we can measure temperature and frequency at the same time. And I learnt to socialise and work with other people in a group dynamic, I also learnt more things about myself and i feel like I’m walking away much more knowledgable.
I am generally a shy person but this week forced me to step out of my comfort zone to socialise as well as learn to the best of my abilities. I am not often outspoken but I tried socialising and making friends who have now become sisters to me.
Did you ever imagine yourself experimenting with satellites?
Yes, but I thought it was only one of my crazy ideas, I never imagined it would become a reality so soon. My favourite part about space trek was building and launching the Cricketsats. We had to build the Cricketsat from scratch by building a complex circuit board. We put the parts together and we leant how to solder to ensure the current works. We first tested the sats on ground base using a computer, reading the data it was sending via radio waves. Today we launched the Cricketsats into the atmosphere, recording the frequencies as the balloon rises higher into the sky. I’ve learnt that satellites are very useful. I can say that without satellites we wouldn’t have much to do, earth and life would be incredibly boring as there would be no cellphones, tv, internet, GPS or worldwide news.
So what is waiting for you in the future?
I used to think that physics and engineering are only for males, so Space trek has opened my eyes that I can stand my ground and pursue science. It’s so fun and everyday you get to explore something new, create something new, create magic with your own hands. There is also a lot of gain to pursue science as there are so my opportunities career-wise in STEM related fields. You create you make and you find solutions to things and you can even fix stuff in your own house!
After this experience I feel so empowered because I am the first person in my family to do physics, to actively choose to pursue physics, and I’m one of the few who got to experience this amazing opportunity and to make mind blowing things like my own satellite with my own hands. Most girls shy away from Science as they think it s too difficult for them, but I want to tell them that STEM related careers are a great choice, it might be a bit tough, but it’s a great choice.