Every other month, Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a staff member selected from the phone directory with the help of a random number generator. This month we profile Keith Romberg, a software engineer and programmer in EOL.
On the job: Keith came to NCAR two and a half years ago as a software engineer and programmer in EOL’s Computing, Data, and Software (CDS) facility.
CDS develops and maintains computing infrastructure, data and metadata services, collaborative tools, field catalogs, and more. Keith’s team within CDS develops and supports software components of EOL observing systems, providing engineering services to other EOL groups and working on designated projects.
“This job is the complete opposite of what I’ve done before,” says Keith, who formerly was a software engineer at Jeppesen, an Englewood-based aviation company. “It’s more hands-on since I get to go out in the field and work with hardware.”
In particular, Keith works on the software, firmware, and electronics for driftsondes. A driftsonde consists of a 30-foot (10-meter) balloon carrying a gondola of instrumentation, including a device for sending and receiving radio signals. The balloon ascends to the lower stratosphere (around 60,000–65,000 feet, or 97,000–105,000 kilometers), where it remains airborne for a week or longer, drifting with the winds. Scientists at an operations center communicate with the driftsonde to release instrument packages that collect weather data as they descend through the atmosphere.
In 2006, Keith traveled to Zinder, Niger, as part of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis project, during which the driftsonde system made its research debut. More recently, he spent February in the Seychelles, an island nation northeast of Madagascar, collaborating with French researchers on driftsonde tests. This summer he heads to Hawaii for a project on typhoon genesis that will use driftsondes, and he’s scheduled to help launch balloons in Antarctica in 2009. He’s also made a number of trips to Europe, in addition to domestic destinations.
“NCAR has definitely provided me with a lot of opportunities to travel,” Keith says.
Keith initially dabbled in chemistry as a college student at Colorado State University. “I barely slipped by second-semester organic,” he recalls. After taking some general math and science classes, he found his ideal fit with computer science and applied math.
Off the job: Keith grew up in Broomfield. “Then I decided to get out into the world, so now I live in Lafayette,” he jokes.
He and his wife, Joanna, have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Annalynn. “She keeps us pretty busy,” he says. “When we can pawn her off on the grandparents, we go to the movies or dinner.”
Most of his family lives in the Denver area, with a sister in Fort Collins.
One of Keith’s hobbies is drag racing. He first got interested in the sport when he bought a 2000 Camaro. “That was the first hot rod—all I’d had before were beaters,” he says.
He later traded the Camaro for a 2000 Corvette and began racing. He’s made some modifications to the Corvette, installing a bigger engine and supercharger. He races at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison in the club class, a recreational division.
“It’s a little scary at first but you get used to it,” he says. “It’s hard to describe what I like—the speed, the competition.”
Keith also plays drums in a band, though he won’t be quitting his EOL job any time soon to pursue the rock and roll lifestyle. “We all have day jobs,” he says. “It’s just a hobby.”