NuMI's very own MacGyver:
|Deep in concentration, Keith Anderson works on a project for NuMI.
When you’re working on equipment for the world’s first 500- mile neutrino beam, there’s no handbook. So for Keith Anderson, senior technical aide for the NuMI (Neutrinos at the Main Injector) support group, creativity is key.
“I put things together and then I fix them when they’re broken,” Anderson said. “It’s just using a wrench for the most part, until there’s a failure. Then you have to use some ingenuity.”
Anderson joined Fermilab in 2002 and worked for three years as a contractor before he was hired as a full-time technician. Formerly a tank mechanic in the U.S. Army, he had experience working with heavy, sophisticated equipment that fit in well with neutrino experiments.
“I was just looking for a change of pace,” Anderson said. “Being a truck mechanic is the same thing day in, day out – and you come home every day smelling of diesel fuel. Personally, I like coming up with new ideas.”
NuMI provides plenty of opportunities for innovation. When the support group had to investigate a decay pipe in a high-energy area, it devised a plan to create a periscope to look down into the dark tunnel. Anderson did much of the periscope’s design, including its light source: a remote-controlled Caterpillar truck from Toys R’ Us. Anderson took the truck home at night and spent weeks fitting it with a complex array of LED lights to illuminate the pipe.
“Keith has a perfect blend of talent and creativity,” said engineer Kris Anderson, NuMI beams mechanical support group leader. “He’ll uncover a problem and call me, already with some solutions in mind.”
Because of its scale, constructing and repairing the NuMI equipment is a learn-as-you-go experience. Even simple things, such as shipping a piece of hardware, often require a great deal of resourcefulness. Million dollar hardware requires specialized packaging, and Anderson is often the one to engineer and construct it.
“When he’s done, it’s like Norm Abram from ‘This Old House’ built the thing,” Kris Anderson said.
“Finding better ways of doing stuff, that’s just something I like,” Keith Anderson said. “Everything’s challenging because none of this has ever been done before. We’re always improving.”
- Sara Reardon