PISCES and DLIR Partner for Summer Internship Program

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PISCES’ Summer Internship Program employs university students to give them hands-on experience in high-technology research and development projects. (L to R) PISCES Program Manager Rodrigo Romo, Interns Aaron Roth, Jack Andersen, PISCES Operations Manager Christian Andersen, Interns Andrew Hasegawa, Lily Leyva and Kyla Defore. Credit: PISCES.

The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DLIR) Workforce Division have partnered to employ five university students this summer in aerospace research and development jobs on Hawaii Island.

The joint workforce initiative partners PISCES’ Summer Internship Program and DLIR’s Workforce Experience Position. Through the 10-week program, participating interns will receive a full-time paid salary and fringe benefits, while gaining hands-on experience through research and development projects with PISCES in the fields of robotics and materials science.

“I’m excited for this partnership with DLIR to employ this year’s group of summer interns at PISCES,” said Rodrigo Romo, PISCES program director. “These students will learn valuable skills and experience through this unique program, and gain an edge to excel in the competitive career fields of science and technology.”


Alongside PISCES staff, robotics students are programming and developing hardware systems aboard the Hilo-based agency’s “Helelani” planetary rover. The systems include navigation, graphic user interfaces, imaging, communications, telemetry and mechanics. The robotics team’s work will culminate in a field test mission—designed by the interns themselves—at a planetary analog test site on Hawaii Island to assess the rover’s upgrades.

Materials science students are researching novel construction techniques using volcanic basalt. Hawaii’s basalt is a close match to lunar and Martian regolith–the surface layer of dust, gravel and rock. Student interns will directly participate in the design and test phase of ISRU (in-situ resource utilization) methods using basalt that could enable the construction of habitats, landing pads and other infrastructure on the Moon and/or Mars. Their efforts will also aid in developing a useful way to create basalt-based construction materials that could be used in Hawaii. Basalt-based building materials could benefit the state by creating a new industry based on sustainable, locally-sourced resources.

Both groups of student interns will complete the program with a final presentation to local representatives, educators and members of the community.


“I look forward to hearing from the interns about their experience,” said DLIR Director Linda Chu Takayama. “The best training comes from real-life work experience that applies what students learn in school, and a well-trained workforce, which will give Hawaii its competitive edge in today’s fast-paced global economy.”

PISCES has mentored 31 university and college students from Hawaii and other states since 2013. Former PISCES interns have landed jobs at large companies like Google and Apple Computers, as well as internships at aerospace organizations like NASA and Honeybee Robotics.

Under the joint PISCES-DLIR partnership, DLIR is paying intern salaries for a total of 2,000 working hours during the summer months of 2017. The program began on June 5 and will continue through mid-August.

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