John Bennest has a very scientific mind which he has used to design and manufacture specialty scientific instruments.
Born and raised in Summerland and valedictorian for the 1965 graduating class, Bennest said,
“It’s useful to get a feel for what you are good at. I am, and have the track record to prove it, really good at certain kinds of electronic design and the hands on manufacturing of such.”
With a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of British Columbia and in association with Dr. B. Barry Narod, the two men have built hundreds and hundreds of magnetometers in their own basements for observatories world-wide.
Bennest designed and built MGF, a fluxgate magnetometer, for the Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (ePOP) on the Canadian Space Agency’s hybrid satellite Cassiope.
The sensors measure the magnetic field, while the satellite’s mission is to observe space weather.
He also invented a new pressure period counter, improving on the standard period counter, used in the oceans to measure water pressure.
“I came up with a very clever scheme on how to measure this signal for a tiny amount of power and very precisely and it is very quiet. My machine is still the best in the world for doing this,” he said.
Ocean Networks Canada uses these instruments in their observatories, laying them on the ocean floor off the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Bennest explained that by measuring the water pressure through these sensors they were even able to receive data “in stunning detail” on the 2004 great Sumatra earthquake and tsunami.
Although Bennest says his electronic career started in his early teens, by hauling old radios out of the dump and bringing them home and getting them working again, he is now able to make the following claim.
“I am one of very few people on the planet who can honestly say that I have electronic systems that I have designed and built, functioning simultaneously, in orbit and on the floor of the ocean.”
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