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people examining the Project Imua payload

Kauaʻi Community College student Nick Herrmann was pleasantly surprised to be mistaken for a NASA employee. In June, Herrmann was one of five University of Hawaiʻi Community College students who traveled to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virgina to test the scientific payload they had developed in order to ensure that their instruments are ready to be launched in August.

Herrmann helped to integrate the UHCC payload onto the main rocket and, like the other students there, was wearing an official blue jacket to protect against electrostatic discharge when someone walked up to him and started talking rocket-scientist shop. “It was cool!” recounted Herrmann.

The UH Community College students are part of a collaboration known as Project Imua (Hawaiian for ‘to move forward’). Comprised of four UH Community College campuses, Project Imua involves a joint faculty-student enterprise for designing, fabricating and testing payloads.

  • Kauaʻi CC designed and built the payload’s instrumentation.
  • Honolulu CC designed the payload’s electronic circuitry for power and telemetry.
  • Kapiʻolani CC designed the associated print circuit board.
  • Windward CC integrated all the components together and performed static tests on the payload.
  • Both Windward CC and Kauaʻi CC designed and constructed the payload’s mechanical housing.

Windward CC faculty member Jacob Hudson was proud of how the UH Community College students were able to work with other university students from much bigger schools with greater resources. Hudson said, “They were dealing with university students who were several years more advanced and were holding their own in concept discussions and work ethic.”

“I’ve learned a lot about how NASA operates and all the procedures they have to go through to launch something into space,” said Kalanikapu Copp from Windward CC.

Matthew Mau, a Honolulu CC student concurred, “People here will talk about something over and over again, until the idea is perfected.”

One of the highlights was viewing an early morning rocket launch, similar to what will occur when their scientific payload is launched into space in August.

“I’ve never had an interest in aerospace engineering or ‘space stuff’ before taking on this internship,” said Windward CC student Elena Barbour. “This has shown me that even if I feel like I can’t do something that seems too hard or out of my league, I should do it anyway.”

The scientific instrument that forms the main component of Project Imua’s payload consists of a UV spectrometer that will analyze the intensity of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation before it enters Earth’s atmosphere. The data could have implications regarding climate.

Project Imua is funded by a two-year $500,000 grant awarded under the NASA Space Grant Competitive Opportunity for Partnerships with Community Colleges and Technical Schools. Project Imua is supported by UH Mānoa, UH’s main Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium campus, which provides technical assistance through Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory’s resources and personnel.

On August 11, 2015 a rocket carrying Project Imua’s payload will be launched from Wallops into suborbital flight. The UH Community College team was the only community college whose payload was selected for this launch.

Honolulu CC’s Debora Pei said, “The excellent progress we have made with Project Imua demonstrates how, with adequate funding and solid opportunities, Hawaiʻi students can compete side-by-side with other great minds all across the country.”

—By Kelli Trifonovitch

Project Imua payload vibration test on shake table

View more photos on the University of Hawaiʻi Flickr site.

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