Ferrill "Tony" Berendsen is a technician in the University of Nevada, Reno's College of Engineering, where he oversees and promotes safety in the Department of Mechanical Engineering's Manufacturing Laboratory. Safety matters everywhere, and certainly in this lab where machinery such as a heavy duty drill press and computer controlled lathes and mills are used by faculty, staff and students as they create and model mechanical innovations. Berendsen joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2007 and calls his time with the University "a wonderful journey."
Berendsen is passionate about astronomy and is the founder of the Tahoe Star Tours. He has been involved with public-outreach programs at the MacLean Observatory at the University's Redfield Campus and the Fleischmann Planetarium on the main campus.
Q: What sparked your commitment to safety?
A: My interest in safety began during my years as a quality manager in Silicon Valley while working in military and aerospace manufacturing. I learned there was a close correlation between safety, education and efficiency. Employees who are well trained and educated on how to do their jobs are higher achievers and work safer too. Additionally, I am a strong proponent of workplace education and apprenticeship. My inspiration for becoming involved with safety is OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). I have worked with OSHA agents many times to help solve safety issues in the workplace and believe the OSHA act of 1970 has greatly increased the safety and quality of workplaces in the United States.
Q: What opened the door to your interest in astronomy? What are some interesting things you've had the opportunity to do surrounding astronomy?
A: When I was eight my father gave me a telescope for Christmas. It was through the eyepiece of that little scope that my interest in astronomy began and flourished. Over time I became a self-taught outreach astronomer, and in 2002 founded Tahoe Star Tours. Since then, with the help of a wonderful sponsor, Celestron Telescopes, we have had over 15,000 guests attend the star gazing programs we produce at the Cosmoarium at Northstar Resort and The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.
I've always said that two of Nevada's greatest resources are rocks and stars. Mining flourishes in our state, but our dark skies are under appreciated and underutilized. I am working to increase interest in astronomy tourism and the appreciation of the dark skies of Lake Tahoe and Nevada. In addition, I run an astro-poetry contest for K-12 school children each year to help spur interest in mixing science and art. This year's award ceremony will be held at The Discovery in downtown Reno on April 22.
Q: What are some useful safety tips you follow?
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. Lab equipment can be very dangerous if operated incorrectly.
- Simple things like safety glasses and ear protection can save your sight and hearing from damage. If other students see you wearing safety equipment they will too.
- When entering a lab take a minute to look around and become familiar with the environment and possible safety hazards.
- Look out for your fellow students. If you see something unsafe report it, and keep your lab workspace clean and organized. A clean, organized lab is safer for you and everyone else.