Our Islands, Our Future

This summer, the University of Hawaii’s Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL) was awarded one of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief grants (GEER) to find innovative ways to teach in Hawaii. Since May 2020, thanks to a NASA Artemis Student Challenge Grant, the HSFL team has developed an educational version of a 1U (10cm on each edge) low-cost cubesat kit, including hardware, software, and educational materials to enable community college and undergraduates, with no formal aerospace program, to do aerospace research. The recent GEER Grant also allows HSFL to bring the kit to middle and high schools in Hawaii. 

“Through this grant, our team will provide participating teachers a hardware kit and a basic electronics lab kit to test their spacecraft,” said Amber Imai-Hong, HSFL Avionics Engineer Outreach Specialist. “Educators will be required to participate in an online UH course, at no cost, to provide them with technical knowledge and assistance integrating the kit into their curriculum. As with many scholastic robotics and science fair competitions, HSFL will host a design challenge for the students where they can develop a mission concept around Earth observation, and test their ideas using the Artemis CubeSat kit. There will not be awards; however, we will host an online symposium in April 2022 where the students can present their mission concepts, including designs and modifications to the kit, testing procedures, and results, to engineers from around the state.”

These current projects were inspired by Hiapo, a 1U cubesat satellite built and launched by a group of Hawaii students and staff at the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum. When HSFL was approached in 2019 to build an affordable 1U cubesat, they jumped at the opportunity to reach out to community members. “We were able to train over 30 students at UH and an additional 20 students in grades 3-12,” said Imai-Hong. “The satellite launched on the Firefly Alpha on September 2, 2021, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California — it was an excellent training experience. The entire Hiapo team are already talking about the mission and design of our next satellite!”

We are reaching out to educators at public, private, and charter schools who may want to integrate this open-ended project-based learning into their classrooms. For more information, email

Amber Imai-Hong, UH HSFL Avionics Engineer Outreach Specialist