Our Islands, Our Future

Hawaii residents contributed to key space-related discussions at the 4th annual EMER-GEN Conference. This year’s program, presented by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) was the first hybrid event, with both in-person and livestream components. A joint initiative of the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference and the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), the EMER-GEN experience offered mentoring, networking, professional development sessions and scholarships for university students and young professionals, ages 18-35. 

“MEDB was honored to be a platform for dialogue for the 2021 EMER-GEN cohort,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “This experience provides a significant pathway into future careers.” The 2021 program was filled with critical-thinking exercises, including three pre-event webinars fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among the cohort. They were also challenged to solve problems through a hack-a-thon and consensus-building session to help create new opportunities for space-based technologies. 

Along with MEDB, three young professionals helped shape the program. Two representatives nominated by SGAC, Quentin Verspieren, Space Policy Researcher with the University of Tokyo, and Christine Dubbert, a Project Engineer with York Space Systems, were joined by Maui resident Micah Nishimoto, an undergraduate student of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California. 

“I was humbled to be part of the organizing team,” said Nishimoto. “EMER-GEN is a great opportunity to learn about space engineering, space policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our guest speakers, Ramsay Taum, Life Enhancement Institute of the Pacific, LLC, and Dave Baiocchi, Imaginative Futures, tied all of these important topics to native Hawaiian culture and values.”

Katlynn Vicuna, UH Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory, added, “I enjoyed the interactions among the diverse cohort, and applaud the mentor session. Presently, I am not sure which career path I want to follow. It truly helped to talk to mentors from academia, military, and industry. 

Mentor Tom Kubancik, Trusted Space, Inc., said, “EMER-GEN is important. Each year the program enriches the cohort’s effectiveness to work in a global environment. Our industry is strengthened when we are inclusive and incorporate the ideas of every age group and nationality. This cohort is bright and smart. I learned a lot from them!”

MEDB has successfully evolved the EMER-GEN program over the years. They keep it fresh while staying true to its roots in terms of development of the young intelligent people in our industry.

Tom Kubancik, EMER-GEN Mentor, Trusted Space, Inc.