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The ALEX Blog

The ALEX Blog

UH Hilo’s Space Robotics Team at NASA Robotic Mining Competition, Kennedy Space Center, FL

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 2:56pm by

The team was judged on the work of their mining robot “Spock,” which, via remote control, navigated obstacles to scoop up and move simulant Mars material.


UH Hilo Space Robotics Team with their robot Spock, before leaving for competition in FL. (l-r) Carli Hand, Joerg Michael Weber, Ethan Paguirigan, Daryl Albano, Derek Hand, and Stephanie Mapes. Photo by Marc Roberts, click to enlarge.

The University Space Robotics Team from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo was at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, last week for the team’s inaugural appearance at the NASA Robotic Mining Competition (RMC) event running May 16-20. The competition is done annually for university-level students to design and build a mining robot that can traverse the simulated Martian chaotic terrain. The team of six students officially represented the University of Hawai‘i at this prestigious national event.

The team was being judged on the work of their mining robot (named “Spock” after a famous Vulcan), which, via remote control, navigated obstacles to scoop up Mars regolith simulant, then transported the material to a collection bin at the starting gate within a 10-minute competition heat.

Robotics 5-18 (2)

May 18—Team passes inspection, judged by NASA engineer legend Joe Kosmo (left). The top award at the competition is named in his honor. Kosmo developed the first astronaut spacesuits. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

The team is comprised of UH Hilo students Ethan Paguirigan, Carli Hand, Daryl Albano, Derek Hand, Stephane Mapes and Michael Weber with faculty team leader Marc Roberts.

John Hamilton, logistics and education/public outreach manager at the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and an instructor with the UH Hilo physics and astronomy department, is the club faculty advisor and an invited judge at the NASA RMC for four years.


May 18—This photo shows the robot dumping the load during competition. At the bottom right of the photo is the Caterpillar teleoperated D-10 dozer that is in Arizona. UH Hilo student team members Carli Hand and Mike Weber successfully completed the skill course from this console in Florida. Caterpillar is the main corporate sponsor of the Robotic Mining Competition and provides the Autonomy Award. Click photo to enlarge. More photos.

A holodeck at UH Hilo? NSF-funded Data Science program will offer undergraduate research opportunities, data visualization room

Saturday, May 21, 2016, 9:25am by

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is among the beneficiaries of a $20 million Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant recently awarded to the UH System by the National Science Foundation.

UH Hilo’s share of $2.1 million will be used to launch a new Data Science program. To develop a baccalaureate degree and several certificate programs focusing on data mining, modeling, predictive analytics and pattern recognition, we will hire four new data science faculty members in mathematics, computer science, and the natural and social sciences.

The NSF funds will also pay for a Cyber-CANOE (think Holodeck) that will allow students and faculty to engage in data visualization and 3-dimensional modeling, following its installation this fall.

A Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) will fund dozens of research projects where students work with faculty on data-intensive problems and topics.

“These several, interrelated components of the ‘Ike Wai grant will provide UH Hilo data science students with the skills and experience necessary to solve complex problems,” said Dr. Matthew Platz, vice chancellor for academic affairs/research and co-principal investigator. “Through the certificate program and the soon-to-be-developed B.S. in Data Science, they will gain a better understanding of how to analyze large, complicated data sets that have traditionally been difficult to decipher.”

Dr. Roberto Pelayo, associate professor of mathematics and workforce and education lead for the grant, noted the data science field opens up some attractive employment opportunities for students.

“Employers are always looking for well-trained students with the newest, most sophisticated tools for answering difficult questions,” Pelayo said. “Courses like Data Mining, Data Visualization, Modeling, and Predictive Analytics will prepare our students for exactly these employment opportunities.”

For more information about the UH Hilo Data Science program, contact Robert Pelayo.

Students and alums: Build your career portfolio on College Central

Thursday, May 19, 2016, 9:41am by

Have you signed up for College Central, UH Hilo’s internship and employment placement site?

Your college degree isn’t a golden ticket to a dream job.There are already more college graduates than there are jobs for them. Employers can pick and choose, and the competition is fierce!

41% of recent college graduates earn $25,000 a year or less [PDF] and a quarter of college graduates earn no more than the average high school graduate. Many college graduates are stuck in minimum-wage jobs–not what they expected after completing their degrees.

How can you stand out in this competitive job market? Employers and internship providers are looking for more than a transcript. They want to see what you can do.

And with College Central’s new portfolio service, you can show them. Job seekers can build, add work experiences, and share their career portfolios with employers. As UH Hilo alumni, you can continue to expand and refine your career portfolio throughout your  career. UH Hilo has invested in this service and made it free for you!

Don’t get left behind. Sign up today, or log in and start building your portfolio.

Learn more about UH Hilo here.

UH Hilo psychology instructor wins national teaching award

Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 2:56pm by

The Apereo Foundation announced last week that Alexander Nagurney, a psychology instructor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and colleague Patrick Smith, an instructional designer at Texas State University, received a 2016 Apereo Teaching and Learning Award (ATLAS) for their digital social psychology course.

Patrick Smith and Alexander Nagurney

Award-winning instructors Patrick Smith and Alexander Nagurney

The ATLAS selection committee felt the PSY322 course is “a strong application that combines game-based learning activities, to deliver a course in which the students communicated more frequently, thoughtfully, and collaboratively. The innovative use of a real world problem (hidden within the guise of a fictitious client) engages the students in team-based problem solving and individual reflection.”

UH Hilo prizes excellence in teaching. The university community is immensely proud of Professor Nagurney and UH Hilo’s other world-class professors and instructors. UH Hilo students appreciate small classes, personal attention, and the community and industry connections that faculty bring to the classroom.

UH Hilo is still taking applications for fall 2016. Interested? Find out more here.

You can #snowboard in #Hawaii ?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 1:01am by

Check out this short video from UH Hilo student-athlete Destini Soares

Want to find out more about UH Hilo?

Video production classes coming to UH Hilo

Monday, May 16, 2016, 10:25am by

The College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is currently enrolling students in a pair of online video classes. Video Business Profiles: A Service Learning Project with Desi Foxe will provide students with the technical skills required to produce online video profiles to promote businesses.

Part 1 (June 1-July 6; no class on July 4) will cover the various components and skills of video production, including the basics of using a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera and accessory equipment, how to conduct a video interview, planning and storyboards, and editing with Adobe Premiere Elements. Part 2 (July 11 to August 17) will employ the knowledge and skills learned in Part 1, which is a pre-requisite, to produce two short videos for local businesses as a service project.

All classes will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 – 7 p.m. in UH Hilo’s PB 7 (SeniorNet Lab). Tuition is $125 for Part 1 and $150 for Part 2. A discount package for both Parts 1 and 2 is available for $250. A notebook, headphones, and a 64 or 32GB flash drive are required. A hybrid DSLR (HDSLR) camera is highly recommended.

For more information and to register, contact CCECS at 932-7830 or visit the site.

Hands-on learning isn’t just for grownups: non-credit classes

Thursday, May 12, 2016, 12:38pm by

The College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is accepting registration for non-credit classes designed especially for children, to be held on the main campus beginning in June.

Trey Saunders will teach hip hop dancing for ages 6-11 in Hip Hop for Kids. Styles to include breakdance, tutting, popping & locking, hip-hop choreography, freestyle and more. No dance experience is required. Classes will meet on Fridays from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. at the UH Hilo Old Gym, June 3-July 22. The cost is $60.

Award-winning media educator Desi Foxe’s Animation Video Workshop For Youth will guide children ages 9-13 through production of two, short stop motion videos. Participants will learn the basic mechanics of stop motion animation, recording audio and editing the video, plus key terminology. Students are required to bring their own notebook folder, digital still camera (smartphone acceptable), headphones and 16GB flash drive. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. in PB-7, June 7-30. Tuition is $100.

Baby Talk: French with Sylvie Garnero is a fun and interactive immersion class that introduces adults and their children to a second language. The course is recommended for adults with children up to age five and will teach them simple words, phrases and songs to continue sharing at home. Classes are scheduled for Wednesdays from 9:30 –10:15 a.m. in PB-22, Room 102, June 22-August 10. The cost is $65 for one adult and one child and $15 for each additional participant.

For more information and to register, contact CCECS at 932-7830 or visit


Check out this amazing new UH #Hilo video from our own #Vulcan #Videographer Destini Soares

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 1:01am by

Learn more about UH Hilo.


For Hilo students and Big Island entrepreneurs: New $25,000 Business Plan Competition

Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 1:01am by

Two long-time Hawai‘i Island businessmen are aiming to give would-be entrepreneurs a serious jump start.



Jim Wyban

Jim Wyban

World-renowned aquaculture expert Jim Wyban and Kelly Moran, president and founder of Hilo Brokers, are co-chairing the upcoming Best Big Island Business Plan competition, to be hosted by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in the fall of 2016.

At stake is a total of $25,000 in seed money from a variety of sponsors including the Natural Energy Lab, the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce and the Ulupono Initiative. Entry is open to any and all types of businesses, from astronomy and agriculture to technology and tourism.

Kelly Moran

Kelly Moran

“As long as it’s Big Island-based, it qualifies,” explains Moran, adding, “there’s so much talent out there, and this is a great opportunity to fast-forward someone’s killer concept.”

Open to any and all Hawai‘i Island residents, the Best Big Island Business Plan competition is meant to foster a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem on Hawai‘i Island through cooperation and competition.

But the purpose of the competition goes beyond jump-starting a lone entrepreneur or co-op. Both men are confident that by encouraging budding businesses to put their ideas forward, a better entrepreneurial ecosystem can be built on Hawai‘i Island.

“Good ideas can’t thrive in isolation,” describes Wyban, adding, “it takes peers, mentors and even competitors to push a venture to its full potential.”

Wyban speaks from experience. An aquaculture pioneer, he helped to develop pathogen-free shrimp varieties that helped to quadruple global production before selling his technology to a multinational corporation.

Moran is a 30-year real estate veteran, who has overseen more than $500 million worth of transactions in his career.

Plan entries are being accepted now. Competition proceedings will be held at UH Hilo in the fall 2016 semester, exact date and time to be announced.

For more information on the competition and to download entry forms, visit the Best Big Island Business Plan’s website.

Questions can be directed to Jim Wyban by emailing jim[at]



UH Hilo undergrad performing research through Marine Options Program

Monday, May 9, 2016, 1:01am by

Anna Mikkelsen doing some hands-on learning.

Anna Mikkelsen doing some hands-on learning.

Anna Baker Mikkelsen is applying the knowledge of a marine science major, mathematics minor, and participant in the Marine Options Program at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo to study a tiny organism with an important role in the marine environment of Hilo Bay.

Diatoms are a type of phytoplankton, or single-celled organism, which live in the water columns of the ocean. These organisms conduct photosynthesis and contributes up to 60 percent of the primary production of the food that fuels the oceans food webs. A feature that distinguishes diatoms from other phytoplankton is their cell wall, which is made up of silica, a glass like compound, making the cells of diatoms look like tiny glass houses.

Hilo Bay’s characteristics, including high silica content, favors the growth of diatoms over many other types of phytoplankton. Mikkelsen hypothesized that the predominance of fast-growing diatoms in Hilo Bay is masking the presence of other types of phytoplankton, thus limiting our understanding of phytoplankton biodiversity in a unique marine environment in Hawai‘i.

Mikkelson wondered, “what would happen without diatoms?”  With the help of her advisor, Jason Adolf, she conducted an experiment in which water was collected from Hilo Bay, fertilized to promote phytoplankton growth, and inhibited the diatom growth in some samples by adding a chemical known to inhibit the metabolism of silica. Mikkelson used light and scanning electron microscopy to compare the growth rate and types of phytoplankton that grew with and without the presence of diatoms.

The final results are not yet in, but, while running her experiments, Mikkelsen found several species of phytoplankton that have never before been seen in Hilo Bay, largely due to bay’s high diatom content. As anticipated, the growth rate of these non-diatom phytoplankton was much slower than the growth rate of diatoms.  If these phytoplankton are found to be indigenous to Hawai‘i, Mikkelsen’s research could make a very significant discovery.

Learn more about Mikkelsen: UH Hilo cross-country Vulcan Anna Mikkelsen is a long way from home, living the dream in Hawai’i nei.