College Students to Earn Credit Through Robotics Work

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PISCESʻ summer student interns pose with the “Helelani” planetary rover (L-R): Aaron Roth, Jack Andersen, Andrew Hasegawa. Andersen and Hasegawa are community college students earning credit in the new internship program this fall. Photo courtesy of PISCES.

The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), a Hawai‘i state aerospace agency, in partnership with Hawai‘i Community College has launched a new credit-based internship program to offer college students high-tech learning opportunities while earning classroom credit.

The collaborative program will provide hands-on experience in computer programming and robotics work in an effort to build Hawai‘i’s skilled labor workforce.

“I am very happy to be working closely with Hawai‘i Community College to provide students the opportunity to practice and improve the skills they learn in the classroom,” said PISCES Program Manager Rodrigo Romo. “At PISCES we are committed to providing Hawai‘i’s youth with as many tools and opportunities as possible to meet the demands of the growing high tech industry in the Islands.”


“Hawai‘i Community College believes that preparing our students for the jobs of the 21st century goes beyond our classrooms,” said Hawai‘i CC Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas. “Along with industry partners like PISCES, we can provide academic rigor in internship-based courses and programs.”

Two Hawai‘i CC students will participate in the new program during the fall 2017 semester, earning hour-for-hour classroom credit towards their degrees. Andrew Hasegawa and Jack Andersen, both Electronics Technology majors, will design and develop an autonomous navigation system for the PISCES planetary rover “Helelani,” enabling the 700-pound robot to drive itself.

The students will also develop a delivery system for an unmanned aerial vehicle to mitigate little fire ant populations in tree canopies—a PISCES project in partnership with the Hawai‘i Ant Lab. Both students worked on the Helelani rover as participants in PISCES’ 10-week internship program this summer.


“Their work this past summer is a good representation of the new Electronics Technology curriculum the students were exposed to,” said Hawai‘i CC Electronics Technology Instructor Bernard “Chip” Michels. “I believe this new, revitalized Electronics Technology program that is focused on telecommunications and process and control industries will yield other fine examples of student work in the future. We hope to have more opportunities for our interns at PISCES and other interested organizations.”

PISCES and Hawai‘i CC intend to make the credit-based internship an ongoing program to offer more learning opportunities to Hawai‘i college students outside of the classroom.

“Although classroom learning is invaluable for foundational knowledge, it can at times be lacking in more realistic problem-solving scenarios,” said Hawai‘i CC student Andrew Hasegawa. “This internship provides me with hands-on situations that I’m sure will serve me well in my overall education and future employment opportunities.”


Andersen and Hasegawa demonstrated what they learned during their summer internship experience with PISCES during a presentation in Hilo on Aug. 18 to an audience of lawmakers, educators, industry representatives and other members of the community.

“I am amazed with students’ testimony about their place-based learning experiences and their enthusiasm in applying their skills to the real world,” said Solemsaas.

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