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Senior Cordell Kennerly Presents SOI Programming Project to NASA Engineers
February 21, 2011
As a computer engineering major, Cordell Kennerly always had an interest in computer programming, but admits that he was no expert when he first started classes at Capitol.
“I always liked programming but originally I was not very knowledgeable about it,” Kennerly said.
Fast forward to his senior year and Kennerly found himself in front of a group of engineers from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), presenting software he created for monitoring NASA satellites. After more than two years of researching, developing and programming, CHIMP (Command Housekeeping ITOS Monitoring Program) was ready to be shown to NASA engineers.
Back when Kennerly first learned about the project, which was created by Goddard professionals for Capitol’s Space Operations Institute (SOI), he found a list of requirements and a lot of room for interpretation. He knew he would be designing a website for monitoring the status and wellbeing of NASA satellites, but he also realized that this project would very much be his undertaking.
Kennerly did not have extensive knowledge of satellites or NASA missions, so researching in Capitol’s SOI became routine. The SOI is a joint venture of Capitol and NASA in which students learn the necessary skills for monitoring and managing satellites and satellite operations. At SOI full-time students enrolled in one of Capitol’s engineering disciplines can apply for NASA and industry sponsored co-op positions as early as their freshman year. The real-world experience students like Kennerly gain is invaluable.
“[The project] involved him looking at satellite requirements, software design and also finding out what the users wanted,” Associate Professor Angela Walters said. “It was great experience for an engineering major because he will be doing things like this on the job once he graduates.”
Initially, Kennerly hadn’t envisioned himself working with satellites, but the SOI was the perfect environment for him to hone his computer engineering skills. The fact he was working with NASA didn’t hurt either.
“What I was learning in class, especially upper-level classes, started making more sense because of this project,” Kennerly said. “I was directly applying what I was learning in my classes.”
While his coursework at Capitol and his research in the SOI guided him through the development, the process did come with its share of errors. After working for nearly a year on CHIMP, Kennerly realized he had to completely restart his work when an error in programming was discovered near the project’s completion.
Determined, Kennerly continued developing CHIMP and learned from his previous missteps. After two years of work, he had a draft ready to present to Goddard engineers.
“I had been constantly trying to improve the program, so I was hoping they would ask plenty of questions during their visit,” Kennerly said.
After learning about and interacting with Kennerly’s website, the TRMM engineers liked what they saw. They also provided the kind of feedback Kennerly had been seeking.
Among other changes, Kennerly plans on creating an archive for CHIMP’s data, so analysts can see the historical statuses of the satellite, not just how the satellite is faring at the moment. The work will continue for Kennerly until he graduates in May, at which point he will pass the project along to another SOI student who will build on the experience and continue the dedication Kennerly has shown.
After graduation, Kennerly plans on looking for a job in computer engineering, specifically in web applications development. And if he ever needs to provide related experience for a potential employer, he’ll be ready to discuss his two-year NASA project.
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