Early Engineering Experience

For most high school students here in Hawai`i, their summer vacations consisted of hanging out at the beach, working at a summer job, or going to the movies. However, for three particular high school students their summer consisted of working in state-of-the-art laboratories, using high-tech equipment, visiting multi-billion dollar companies and working on expensive research projects at the University of Hawai`i College of Engineering.

Adrienne working with a soldering iron

Adrienne Kasaoka and James Takase from Mililani High School and Andrew Higashi from Mid-Pacific Institute were the first students to participate in the inaugural year of the University of Hawai`i College of Engineering High School Internship Program.

"When students participate in hands-on projects like the internship, it makes what's written down on paper more concrete and it allows students to be more prepared for what's expected from them in the field of engineering," said Emeritus Professor and senior advisor for the internship program, Kazutoshi Najita.

The interns were placed with COE faculty members and engineering students, who served as mentors. Throughout the summer they worked on some of the top research projects going on at the College of Engineering. The projects the students were placed in were based on their interests and academic skills.

Wireless Communication with Dr. Wayne Shiroma

James making sure everything is alright

Adrienne and James, both currently seniors, worked with electrical engineering assistant professor, Dr. Wayne Shiroma and students Darren Goshi and Michael Tamamoto, in the Millimeter/Microwave Research Laboratory in the Pacific Ocean Science Technology (POST) Building. Dr. Shiroma's expertise includes wireless communications, so he had his two interns construct a patch antenna, which are used in GPS (Global Positioning System) and navigation systems, and tested it using the equipment in the laboratory. The concepts used were closely related to the materials taught in a high school physics course.

"This internship further evoked my interest in engineering, especially electrical engineering. It was fun, interesting, and a great learning experience. Unfailingly, I learned something new everyday. It was a great way to spend my summer," Adrienne said.

James also agreed with his Mililani classmate, "The summer internship at UH was a great experience. The engineering students were friendly, flexible, and made the whole experience enjoyable."

Robots and Roller Coasters

Andrew in the Autonomous Systems Laboratory

Andrew was placed under the wing of mechanical engineering faculty member, Dr. Song Choi. Under Dr. Choi, Andrew was able to work on an underwater robot project called SAUVIM (Semi-Autonomous Underwater Vehicle for Intervention Missions) in the college's Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Holmes Hall. He also helped with the construction of a roller coaster. Not a real roller coaster, but a scaled down version called the HSRCP (High School Roller Coaster Project). Working with engineering student Darin Lui, he created a timing circuit with breadboards, motion sensors, and other basic components anyone can find at a local electronic parts store.

"This high school internship was fun and a great learning experience. It was great being able to interact with engineers and work on fun, simple hands-on activities," Andrew said.

Engineering Excursions

All the interns also had the opportunity to tour the Spirent Technologies Adtech Division facilities in downtown Honolulu, with their faculty and student mentors. There they got a behind the scenes look at what goes on at a major high-tech company, like what engineers do at the company and the work atmosphere. Andrew was also able to go down to the University of Hawai`i testing lab on Sand Island, where the SAUVIM team tests their underwater vehicle.

Unfortunately, the summer had to come to an end, which meant the interns' time at the College of Engineering also had to come to an end. But all three interns agreed that the internship was a great experience.

The program was designed to help high school students in two areas: prepare students for the academic life at a major university and earn valuable experience in the engineering. This experience in engineering will give the interns something that most engineering freshmen won't have, a head start in their engineering studies.


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