Profession: Engineer/project manager, HNU Energy
UH degrees: AS in electronic and computer engineering technology, Maui College; BS in electrical engineering, UH Mānoa
Roots: Makawao, Maui; King Kekaulike High School
Hobbies: Rebuilding vehicles for racing; woodworking
With callused hands more typical of an electrician than an electrical engineer, David Kim is clearly a hands-on learner who bridges the gap between theory and application.
“I understand a little bit of everything. It helps if you have a mechanical background, but I’ve rebuilt engines; I’ve been a power guy,” he says. He did a motor swap, making his second car street legal for transportation, but fast for competition at the Maui Drag Strip.
His background is well suited to the needs of HNU Energy, a research and development company based on Maui. HNU Energy focuses on high efficiency lighting technology and photovoltaic systems while parent HNU Photonics designs and fabricates optical systems and instrumentation for defense, commercial and medical applications.
“This company is not terribly large. Everybody has got multiple jobs; everybody has got to do a little bit of everything,” he says. “We use every resource we have to solve the problem of the day. There’s no mundane task; every day is different. You’ve got to be versed in all aspects of engineering, you’ve got to be versed in photonics, you’ve got to be versed in customer service.”
Kim graduated from high school with the minimum credits in algebra and science and a passion for auto mechanics. He took community college classes in electronics technology after joining the Air National Guard. When Maui College Assistant Professor Mark Hoffman reviewed Kim’s transcripts, he advised the young man to proceed to UH Mānoa.
Academic credentials were a starting point, Kim says. “You learn the basic concepts in school, but they never tell you this is how you put it together, this is how you make it work. When you’re looking at an analog circuit in a classroom, it’s imaginary, but you never put it together and make it work.”
HNU gives him that opportunity, be it photonics, medical devices, photovoltaics or energy systems.
“I feel I am well rounded” with the combination of Guard experience and education, he says. “In a lot of places, an engineer will design something and somebody else will implement. Here I get to do both. I’m the guy who is designing your system, installing it and making sure it works.”