Big Island’s Subaru Telescope mentors 4 students as part of 2023 Akamai Workforce Initiative

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Akamai Workforce Initiative interns pose with their Subaru Telescope staff mentors. (Photo courtesy of Subaru Telescope)

The Big Island’s Subaru Telescope mentored four Hawaiʻi college students this summer as part of the 20th anniversary of the Akamai Workforce Initiative.

The interns received help from Subaru staff mentors throughout eight weeks to complete real-life science and technology projects in a professional setting and working on important projects that will help the telescope prepare for the future.

The 2023 interns were Logan Waltjen of the Big Island, a student at Grand Canyon University; Jase Ishimi from Oʻahu, who is attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; Jonathan Merchant from Maui and Seattle, who is attending Carleton College; and Kamea Mcmillan-Zilberman from Oʻahu, who is a student at Kapiʻolani Community College.

  • Akamai Workforce Initiative intern Logan Waltjen (Photo courtesy of Subaru Telescope)
  • Akamai Workforce Initiative intern Jonathan Merchant (Photo courtesy of Subaru Telescope)
  • Akamai Workforce Initiative intern Jase Ishimi (Photo courtesy of Subaru Telescope)
  • Akamai Workforce Initiative Kamea McMillan-Zilberman (Photo courtesy of Subaru Telescope)

Their projects included redesigning cooling methods for high-altitude video streaming, development and deployment of a new software infrastructure and updating the sky monitoring software for telescope observers. The fourth project, improving the cooling switch system for Subaru’s new observation instrument near the summit of Maunakea called the Prime Focus Spectrograph, was by Waltjen, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools Hawai‘i in Kea‘au,

“My mentor laid out this project well so I could learn through hands-on work and also through computer work and designing,” said Waltjen. “He encouraged me by giving me tasks that kept me busy and it encouraged me to learn so much. I think what I will take aways from this experience is to work hard and always want to do more to produce the best product you can.”

The Akamai program’s goals are to address the technical workforce needs in Hawai‘i and advance students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. Students spend their internship at an observatory or in an industry setting where they complete a project under the guidance of a mentor.


Interns are matched with observatory staff based on their skill set.

“There are many aspects of the Akamai Internship that provide benefits to students both in their coursework and after they graduate,” says Subaru Telescope software engineer Russell Kackley, who has been an Akamai Workforce Initiative mentor for eight years. “During the internship, they gain experience with communication, teamwork, problem solving, and troubleshooting in a professional work environment. Those are skills that will help them in academic projects and through their career.”

Mcmillan-Zilberman, whose project focused on high-altitude video streaming, thought the internship opportunity would be an excellent way to get experience: “I was able to bounce ideas back and forth with my mentor and draw things out to get a better understanding of the flaws with each idea.”

Akamai Workforce Initiative interns visit the Subaru Telescope near the summit of Maunakea on the Big Island to learn how it operates. (Photo courtesy of Subaru Telescope)

This was Subaru Telescope computer system associate Kody Rubio’s first year as a primary mentor for the Akamai Workforce Initiative and he really enjoyed it.

“What really matters to me is the ability to be able to pass down knowledge to the younger generation,” Rubio said.

Subaru Telescope has participated in the Akamai Workforce Initiative since 2005, mentoring a total of nearly three dozen students, who have each worked on a project that has made a direct contribution to the organization.

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