Kauaʻi Community College graduate Marcus Yamaguchi has been mentoring Kauaʻi CC students who are following in his footsteps with Project Imua—a two-year collaboration between students and faculty at four University of Hawaiʻi community colleges to design, fabricate and test scientific payloads to launch into space.

In June 2015, some of the Project Imua team went to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to do final testing and to prepare their payload for launch in August. Yamaguchi will be there to see his work sent into space aboard a NASA rocket.

Said Yamaguchi, “Project Imua more than anything is the realization that we have so many different components spread across the UH System and when we begin to try and come together to collaborate on these projects, the possibilities really are endless.”

A $500,000 NASA grant is funding about 100 scholarships for UH community college students from Kauaʻi, Honolulu, Kapiʻolani and Windward community colleges.

Kauaʻi CC was responsible for designing and building the payload’s main instrument, an ultraviolet spectrometer that will analyze the intensity of the sun’s radiation before it enters the earth’s atmosphere. Brennen Sprenger, who was only 16 when he enrolled at Kauaʻi CC, did all of the designs for the payload and the mechanical drawings.

“To see all of our work put together and the few of us that get to go to Wallops to see it launched, it’s really fun for all of us to be able to have an experience like that to see our work being put to use,” said Sprenger.

Kauaʻi CC is the fourth campus in the University of Hawaiʻi System with a pre-engineering program. Kapiʻolani, Leeward and Windward community colleges also have pre-engineering.

“Long term of course is that we hope to grow the skills of the individual campuses and have the campuses work together to be able to deliver payloads,” said Georgeanne Purvinis co-investigator and mentor at Kauaʻi CC.

Added Yamaguchi, “That may be one of the most valuable assets of this project, just the networking and the collaboration that’s focused around it and hopefully will continue to develop.”

Testing the Project Imua payload at Wallops Flight Facility.

project imua team

See more photos of the Project Imua team on Flickr.