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AMOS space conference inspires Lahaina Intermediate students

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Sep 27, 2018

Lahaina Intermediate School students participate in the Science Applications International Corp. STEM project at the AMOS Conference. The purpose was to show students the importance of protecting satellites from space debris. PHOTO BY JOSE MORALES.

WAILEA – The 19th annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference (AMOS), held on Sept. 11-14 at the Wailea Beach Resort-Marriott, was the largest in its history. A program of the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), the AMOS Conference brought together over 830 scientists, engineers and space experts from 22 countries to share their research and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) discoveries.

The premier SSA conference in the nation, AMOS is a cross-section of military personnel, contractors and academics who fuel important dialogue and collaboration on a national and international scale. The continued growth in attendance and number of participating countries reflects a growing interest in SSA as more national governments, start-up companies, universities and non-governmental organizations become involved in space activities.

In addition to daily policy forums, the conference included technical sessions, exhibit sessions, technical short courses and networking events. This year, the first annual EMER-GEN program, designed especially for young professionals and students, age 35 and under and enthusiastic about careers in space, was launched.

Rocket science is important to Hawaii. Research and technological developments in SSA and astronomy provide significant STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) opportunities for students.

On Friday, Sept. 14, 150 Maui County students and 15 STEM teachers attended Space Exploration Day, where they participated in hands-on space-related experiments provided by the AMOS exhibitors.

Lahaina Intermediate students attend the AMOS Conference Student Exploration Day. PHOTO BY JOSE MORALES.

Lahaina Intermediate School participated in the student session in what has become a highly anticipated annual event at AMOS.

“Our hope with events like this is to reach and expose as many students into the unknown and excite them to pursue a STEM career,” said Mapu Quitazol, MEDB Women in Technology (WIT) Program Manager.

“There were a lot of ideas and lessons in scientific inquiry that the students will be taking back to the classroom. The Space Exploration Day planted seeds for future career choices.”

Lori Ann Koyama, one of four STEMworks AFTERschool instructors at Lahaina Intermediate School, added, “MEDB and WIT provide amazing experiences and opportunities for our students. They are introduced to so many STEM ideas, activities, lessons and experiences. My goal as a STEMworks teacher is to give the students as much exposure to everything STEM as I can.

“They will never know what is out there unless they are introduced to it. Every experience that I take them on, I can honestly say, ‘I’m envious,’ because I never had this kind of exposure while I was in school. I am so grateful for MEDB because I can give my students that knowledge and opportunity.”

Koyama continued, “I’m a much better teacher because of the tools MEDB and WIT have given me. Coming to AMOS increases understanding of STEM subjects and how they are applied to real-world space-related issues. My students are becoming more and more concerned about big global issues. MEDB contributes by making STEM education more relevant through information and resources that make learning more exciting.”

Koyama concluded, “Wow! Who knew even half of these companies that provided the students with experiments existed? It was a blessing to be able to show a handful of my students some of the amazing STEM companies that are out there, give them a glimpse of what types of careers are available to them, and to talk with experts in the industry.”

Lahaina Intermediate eighth-grader Morgan Jenks said, “I learned many things, but one of them really stuck with me. At one of the booths there was an exhibitor talking about the sun and the Daniel. K. Inouye Solar Telescope that is being built on top of Haleakala. It was interesting how they took different pictures of the sun and how much information it showed. I got to keep a few of the photos. I’m so thankful for this opportunity because it confirmed my future. It helped me realize how in love I am with the universe!”

Seventh-grader Kiana Claydon added, “Today I learned a lot about what is going on in space. For example, we learned that people must track satellites and space debris so they don’t hit each other and create more debris. I also learned that we need to find a way to protect all our satellites, including the International Space Station.”

Sixth-grader Hoken Hironaka learned about the movement of satellites and the telescopes that track them.

“I learned the importance and consequences of what’s happening in outer space and how it all relates to our everyday lives,” Hironaka said. “Without MEDB, students wouldn’t experience technology firsthand, and we wouldn’t be at this field trip acquiring all this information.”

Eighth-grader Jayse Koyama agreed, noting, “The Space Exploration Day at AMOS made me consider working on inventing improved AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems in the future. My favorite exhibit was at CACI (Consolidated Analysis Centers Inc.) because it interested me in new concepts that are still being worked on.”

Sawyer Dunning Zeches, seventh-grader, also learned how much is still not known about outer space.

“This field trip informed me more about engineering, which is my career choice,” Zeches said. “I am very glad that MEDB gave me this opportunity as well as my STEMworks program at school, which is awesome!”

Like-minded eighth-grader Jaymie Diga added, “Without MEDB, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about satellites, telescopes, space and its hazards. I am in the STEMworks AFTERschool Media Production class and wouldn’t have the equipment to do my projects without what MEDB provides to us. Also, they offer amazing experiences that are helping us to expand our future choices for jobs in Hawaii.”

A favorite hands-on experiment for Lahaina Intermediate sixth-grader Aumnart Lapus, and many students, was at the SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) exhibit. The SAIC STEM project’s purpose was to show students the importance of protecting a satellite from debris impact. The materials used were fish weight, string, banana or potato, tissue paper, foil and paper.

Operating as a team, the students wrapped their satellite with the materials provided to see how it will perform in a space debris environment. They named their satellite and tested against heavy space debris. The best design using the materials provided with minimal bruising or dents was the winner.

SAIC exhibitors explained how we think of outer space as empty, but that’s not the case around planet Earth. There are millions of pieces of man-made debris floating around. This debris causes potential problems for astronauts, satellites and other important pieces of equipment circling Earth.

One of the hazards of space is the presence of high-speed particles. Particles can be as small as a grain of sand, have a mass that is only a fraction of a gram, but can travel at speeds up to many kilometers per second, making them very hazardous.

The near-earth space environment has a problem of space debris such as paint chips and metal objects from old rocket boosters and satellites. Being struck by one of these objects is dangerous to our valuable assets in space as well as to astronauts. Satellites as well as spacesuits must be designed with materials that are resistant to impacts.

“To protect satellites and astronauts, and soon space tourists, engineers have to give the ships some sort of armor,” explained Michael A. Gutto, vice present of Programs Launch Space and Cyber 1 Intel-Air Force.

“Right now, NASA uses something called Whipple shielding, which consists of a thin, aluminum ‘sacrificial’ wall mounted at a distance from a rear wall. The function of the first sheet or ‘bumper’ is to break up the projectile into a cloud of material containing both projectile and bumper debris.”

Lahaina Intermediate student Lapus concluded, “At the SAIC exhibit, the experiment showed me the importance of creating a strong enough shield to protect a satellite from getting destroyed from space debris and that there are so many different space-related jobs that are needed. I would like to be part of that research in the future. I’m thankful to MEDB for giving me and the other students the opportunity to experience the different careers available in the space industry.”