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two people holding up a small satellite
Gabriel Canevari and Aren Karr worked on the Artemis CubeSat.

From space exploration using robotics to creating 3D printed wearable devices, 16 high school students from Oʻahu experienced a hands-on learning opportunity in the field of engineering through the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering’s Junior Engineers Summer STEM Experience (JESSE) program.

two people working on a robotic device
Ryan Wong working at the Robotic Space Exploration Lab.

The six-week rigorous curriculum provided an opportunity for participants to engage in engineering projects and assist college undergraduates, researchers and professors with their research in state-of-the-art facilities. Students also participated in cultural programming, professional development workshops, and other enrichment activities, and made weekly site visits to engineering employers including Island Energy, Hawaiian Electric Company, SSFM International, Burns & McDonnell, Booz Allen Hamilton, KAI Hawaii and NIWC Pacific. Many of these businesses and companies are led by UH Mānoa College of Engineering alumni.

“It’s great to be involved in helping these high school students find out what they want to do, I think that’s extremely important,” said UH PhD engineering student and JESSE program lead Mandy Brinkmann. “It was very interesting to see how the interns started to grow within their labs and projects. All of them started out just doing research, and we did lab tours, and, of course they were engaged, but they just learned about the projects. Now after six weeks, they’re very proud of what they were able to do and they have already contributed a major part to the research projects.”

Dozens of applicants

person doing work on a computer
Lovely Molina working at the Water Resources Lab on Gene Expression Programming software to study evapotranspiration, the main contributor to atmospheric water vapor.

The participants were incoming high school seniors from Punahou School, Myron B. Thompson Academy, Mililani High, Mid-Pacific Institute, Henry J. Kaiser High, Assets School, Kalani High, Roosevelt High, Farrington High, Damien Memorial School, Pearl City High, Kalaheo High and Hawaiʻi Baptist Academy. Dozens of qualified students applied and priority was given to those with an interest in applying to UH Mānoa’s College of Engineering.

Aren Karr from Assets and Gabriel Canevari from Punahou worked with UH’s Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory on the Artemis CubeSat, a spaceflight-ready, educational, small 1U cube satellite. The technology has the potential to significantly advance aerospace education and provides a low-cost option for industries to send integrated payloads to space.

person doing work on a portable device and the computer
Ian Nishikawa working at the Robotic Space Exploration Lab.

“I’ve actually learned a lot through this program. It really made me want to do engineering now,” Karr said. “It’s just a great program for kids to see if engineering is right for them.”

Canevari added, “I really enjoyed the program. I liked not only working in this lab for six weeks, but we’ve also been doing site visits around the island talking to people at engineering firms. I think that’s been really good to see the future of engineering in Hawaiʻi, what the current is, what the past is and what people work on in their day-to-day. Here at the lab, it’s been a good opportunity to work with the team, work with people my age, work with people older than me and learn some new skills.”

For more information about the JESSE program, visit the UH Mānoa College of Engineering website.

—By Marc Arakaki

three people sitting at a table and talking
Stephanie Lee, Zoey Daida and Lovely Molina were among the 16 JESSE program interns.
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