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Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Jan. 8, 2024

Near-infrared sensor is an example of engineering and manufacturing planned for the new development center at University
 of Hawai‘i at Hilo, giving local students a career path to well-paid jobs. Photo from James Webb Telescope

INVESTING IN HIGH-PAYING PLACE-BASED CAREERS ON THIS ISLAND with an academic pathway into engineering is the goal of a new University of Hawai‘i-Hilo program. “We are on the verge of investing in place-based research and training of our students and faculty on Hawaiʻi Island, where space engineering and advanced manufacturing are at the forefront of a high-tech industry that can support a locally based, well-educated and highly paid workforce,” said U.H. Vice President of Research & Innovation Vassilis L. Surmos.    
    The space engineering and instrument development center is planned for development at the UH Institute for Astronomy where $3 million has already been budgeted by the state to begin design. The facility will cost $20 to $30 million and is set for completion in 2030. However, associated academic programming will begin in the 2024 fall semester. UH Hilo will begin an initial offering of pre-engineering courses while the new high-tech manufacturing center is developed.
   A statement from U.H. says, "Ground observatories, including those based in Hawaiʻi, spend tens of millions of dollars on a recurring basis to upgrade equipment and build instrumentation. That engineering effort typically occurs outside of the state and the planned facility will be designed to bring a larger fraction of that activity to Hawaiʻi. The additive manufacturing and precision machining capabilities of the center and its personnel will also be able to support the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and other Department of Defense entities as well as aerospace and private sector partners."
    Syrmos said, “The components of a successful center of this type already exist at UH, and this new initiative is helping to cohesively and effectively bring them together.” 
    The center is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the UH Institute for Astronomy (IfA), UH Hilo and the UH Mānoa College of Engineering (COE), which is among the 15% of engineering schools in the country that have dedicated aerospace or related programs. IfA astronomers and engineers are already developing some of the most advanced astronomical instruments in the world including:
• Near-infrared sensors on the James Webb Space Telescope,
• Adaptive secondary mirrors with broad applications in telescopes
• Software for the NASA Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope to process thousands of observations of supernovae or exploding stars.
• A new instrument that provides adaptive optics correction using objects invisible to the naked eye
    “This is a natural fit as Hawaiʻi is home to the best astronomy sites in the world and one of the world’s best research universities,” said UH Mānoa COE Dean Brennon Morioka, one of the champions of the program. “UH is now among just a handful of universities developing an on-campus, astronomical manufacturing center and it will have a far-reaching impact on our students, our state and beyond.”
    “The launch of the Space Sciences Initiative will provide valuable opportunities for UH Hilo and our students thanks to this collaboration with UH Mānoa and the UH system,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin. “It expands our academic offerings that will in turn create more career opportunities for our students, especially those from Hawaiʻi Island.”
Nancy Grace, Mother of the Hubble, is also the namesake for a NASA telescope
 that is supported by software developed by UH Institute of Astronomy, which is
 planning to train more local students in the space engineering sciences at UH Hilo.
Photo from NASA
  Ten new full-time faculty are now being recruited to teach the prerequisite engineering courses at UH Hilo and serve as the core engineering team for the new center. Five of the new faculty will be located at IFA’s Hilo facility and the rest at the COE at UH Mānoa. UH Hilo students can transfer those credits to UH Mānoa where they can go on and complete their engineering degrees. There are approximately 500 jobs at observatories on Maunakea and Haleakalā that are held by engineers and technicians who specialize in optics, software, data science, materials, mechanics, systems and cryogenics.
    "UH Hilo students are predominantly from Hawaiʻi Island and now they will have an academic pathway into engineering and ultimately careers that support Hawaiʻi observatories,” said UH IfA Director Doug Simons, another champion of the program. “Right now, these well-paying jobs too often go to non-residents, who are more likely to leave after a few years. We want these jobs to go to local kids. That will not only be good for them and their families, but it will also increase stability in the astronomy sector and broadly benefit our community.”
    A UH Economic Research Organization report on astronomy in Hawaiʻi found the industry in 2019 supported the employment of 1,313 residents and had a total economic impact (output of goods and services) of $221 million.
    See more at https://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/.

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Palmyra Atoll, some thousand miles southwest of Kaʻū, has a new manger, Ryan Wagner,
who works for The Nature Conservancy. Photo from TNC

THE NEW PALMYRA STATION DIRECTOR IS RYAN WAGNER. Palmyra is an atoll managed by The Nature Conservancy within a National Wildlife Refuge and further protected—out to 50 nautical miles—by a national monument, the largest collection of ocean and islands protected under a single jurisdiction in the world. It is located about 1,000 miles southwest of Kaʻū. 
     TNC also manages land in Kaʻū, including Kamehame turtle preserve and native forests between Pāhala and Nāʻālehu
Ryan Wagner, new TNC Director
at Palmyra. Photo from TNC
    With most local threats managed, Palmyra’s atoll ecosystem is well-positioned for adaptation and resilience in response to climate impacts. The Nature Conservancy Hawai‘i and Palmyra reported that Wagner brings extensive experience as a mariner and captain leading complex operations at sea and on land in Hawai‘i and across the Pacific. He has worked within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at Midway, Kure and Johnston Atolls and served as TNC's chief of marine operations at Palmyra from 2008 to 2009.
   "Ryan's extensive experience managing complex operations, strong leadership skills and meticulous attention to detail will be a tremendous asset to our Palmyra program," says Trevor Taylor, TNC's director of conservation. "His leadership will improve operational efficiencies at TNC's research station at Palmyra Atoll, enabling the smooth execution of globally important science projects as well as ensuring safe and effective facilities operations.”
   Wagner's past experience includes conducting coral repairs after vessel groundings, maintaining large wave energy buoys and supporting remote offshore research projects. He has worked from Alaska to Canada, was a fisherman in the Bering Sea, captained commercial diving and mapping projects with Sea Engineering and, most recently, managed a fleet of modern harbor tugboats.
    "I'm honored and thrilled to rejoin the TNC family," said Wagner. "Palmyra left an impression on me, and 14 years after my rotation, many of my contacts and friendships remain in place. I can't wait to get started."”
Diving for crown of thorn starfish in order to protect Palmyra's
 reefs. Photo from Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge
    The Nature Conservancy states that it "is a global non-profit organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Informed by science and guided by traditional values and practices, we apply innovative, nature-based solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive. TNC has forged partnerships to manage 14 preserves and other sites in Hawai‘i and Palmyra Atoll, working with government, private parties and communities to protect Hawai‘i's and Palmyra's forests and coral reefs for their ecological value and for the many benefits they provide to people." Visit nature.org/HawaiiPalmyra.

AN EVENING OF OPERA & SONG, featuring students of the Garcia School, will be presented to the public at Pāhala Plantation Managers House at 96-3209 Maile Street at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Students, who are also music professors and performers from as far away as China, Mexico and New York will sing. The event is organized by Hawai‘i International Music Festival. See more at https://www.himusicfestival.com/