Position: Senior Research Engineer, Field: Electronic systems in harsh environments, Organisation: University of Canterbury

Most parents have dreams for their children, and Kelvin Barnsdale’s father was no different. Kelvin’s dad was a mechanical engineer and he predicted that the future would involve electronics, so he named his son after a famous electrical engineer. Kelvin thinks that his dad’s trick appears to have worked – from an early age, he has been fascinated with the magic of radio and how it can control things from a distance.

Kelvin’s introduction to professional radio design was at Rediffusion Telecommunications Lab, a renowned military radio manufacturer in England. He then joined the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London. There, Kelvin helped design, launch and operate physics and geophysics experiments on satellites and Spacelab II (a reusable laboratory onboard some of the Space Shuttle missions). He found operating these projects from ground centres broadened his knowledge of science and astronomy. They also fuelled his interest in building projects that are able to stand up to harsh environments. Kelvin says, “I found this scientific breadth is essential for electronic engineers to realise new applications for their skills. This was the ultimate ‘harsh environment’ for my electronic designs.”

Kelvin took a break in the form of a 3-year motorcycle trip across the globe. He worked at various radio companies around the world.

Since his arrival in New Zealand 20 years ago, Kelvin has worked with various Christchurch radio companies, including 5 years as a senior design engineer at Navman NZ. There he designed GPS receivers and antenna systems. Kelvin is now a Senior Research Engineer in the Spatial Engineering Research Centre at Canterbury University. In addition to university duties, Kelvin also spends time at intermediate and high schools, nurturing students’ interests in electronics and radio. “When I was at school, none of my electronics projects worked first time, so I always relied on the help of a family friend to get things going. Now it is my turn to do the same.”

Spatial research involves many facets of electronics and geography, so I am back in the area I love – electronic systems in harsh environments. I guess following my passion comes instinctively.

Kelvin’s personal interests also follow a similar path. When not at work, he enjoys being a dad, is the technical editor of a radio magazine, leads a Scout group and relaxes by restoring World War II military radios.

This article is based on information current in 2013.

    Published 27 March 2013