Dr. Japie Van Zyl - a motivation for learners

12 June 2018 | Education

Maria Eiseb



The Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Katutura was crowded with learners and teachers from eleven different schools to spend a few hours with the well-known, Dr. Jakob van Zyl (Japie) ?who is the director at the Solar System Exploration - ?JPL (NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory) in the United States of America.

Namibian born Van Zyl was telling the learners how his journey started and how the love of space brought him to NASA.

“I am a Namibian, born in Outjo and I started my school at a normal government school like all of you, it was not a fancy school,” he said.

He further mentioned that after completing his school career he went to study for an engineering degree in Cape Town, where his interest and love for space was triggered by a lady at the American Cultural centre.

He said he went to the centre to ask for assistance in engineering studies at Massachusetts but instead was asked what he is interested in and when he told them he is more interested “stars and the space” he was kindly advised to study astronomy rather than engineering.

Van Zyl said he is pleased with the advice he could get, as he has no regrets of being a space lover.

He told the learners about the first time they went to Mars and he has a special compassion for the planet.

Van Zyl added that the planet Mars is similar to planet earth as it has a canyon, mountains and they are still doing research if there is water available on planet Mars.

There were thousands of questions flooding from the learners from curiosity they wanted to know more about NASA and about the universe.

Some of the questions from the learners were if there were any failures at NASA while flying to Mars, what great discoveries were so far and what the company is contributing in the everyday life of the people.

According to Van Zyl they had a crash when landing on Mars and that was one of the failures he encountered but we do learn every day, he added.

He further mentioned there are many apparatus from the space company that are being used by other businesses, some are used for the coding of cell phone cameras, he added.

He further said his mom was his advisor, he motivated the youth to work hard, and everybody needs somebody for advice in life.

“Make use of the opportunity and go to places where you can be accompanied with your dreams, when working hard people will support you, Japie said.

The director for education of the Khomas region, Mr Gerard Vries who was also at the event said it was evident that the students were listening attentively because of the way they responded to the questions asked.

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