Ready to launch

PUHI — Three Kauai Community College students and their instructors and mentors are ready to launch in Virginia.

Marcus Yamaguchi, Nicholas Herrmann, Brennen Sprenger, Georgeanne Purvinis and Stu Burley left Monday for the launch of the RockSat-X rocket launch at Wallops, NASA’s principle facility.

Called Project Imua, the program 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.

“One of the goals of Project Imua is to get students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers,” Purvinis said. “Brennen, who is only 17 years old, was a business major, but now switched to pursue a path toward mechanical engineering. He designed the payload, KCC’s role in the launch — and he was only 16 years old when he did it.”

Yamaguchi said when Sprenger approached the group, they were not interested.

“We wanted this girl who was in engineering,” Yamaguchi said. “But Marcus was very persistent, and after speaking with Georgeanne, he was in — designing the mechanical design which included the housings and assembly of the payload.”

Sprenger, who got his GED at 16, plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering after he graduates from KCC in June.

“I overheard Marcus talking with Georgeanne about the project,” Sprenger said. “It was then I realized I wanted to be in engineering and changed my career path. The biggest part of this project is student development and it has been an eye-opening experience.”

KCC is one of four community colleges within the University of Hawaii system whose payload was approved for the flight. The Puhi campus joins Honolulu Community College, Kapiolani Community College, and Windward Community College and was the only community college whose payload was selected for the Tuesday launch.

Purvinis said the goal of Project Imua, the formal name for the collaborative effort, is to get data on ultra violet energy, primarily between 200 through 400 nanometers, which doesn’t get to Earth because it is filtered out by the upper atmosphere.

“This is something which not very much is known,” Purvinis said. “During the launch, the shell will come off the rocket as it aims the window to the sun. We’ll have an optimum 45 seconds to collect as much data as possible during that time.”

Herrmann was responsible for producing the electrical design for the payload.

“The hardest part of designing the project is learning about the programs which are used to actually design the electrical boards,” he said.

Stu Burley, the Hawaii Space Grant Community liaison, said the launch, simply stated, has the rocket going up, taking a look around, and returning where teams review data collected during the flight.

“The rocket which will be used in the launch from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana later this year will do more than that,” Burley said. “This rocket will go up and disperse satellites, including the University of Hawaii’s HiakaaSat, which will remain in orbit.”

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