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Collage Of Summer Interns Working

Summer internship at the College of Engineering inspires future engineers

The College of Engineering at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa hosted 15 interns this summer in a program designed to provide high school students with the chance to conduct meaningful laboratory research, engage in professional development and cultural activities, participate in engineering challenges, and visit with engineering firms to explore career opportunities in a variety of settings.

The College’s own signature internship program returned after a four year hiatus in revamped form and is now known as the Junior Engineers Summer STEM Experience, or JESSE. The six-week JESSE program ran from June 13 – July 22 with a cohort comprised rising seniors from high schools across Hawaii as well as one from an American school in Japan. In order to be selected for JESSE, interns underwent a rigorous application process that included submission of transcripts, teacher recommendations, and essays demonstrating their passion for engineering.

At the start of program, each intern was paired with an engineering lab along with a lab mentor – most of whom were graduate students – and given a meaningful research project to complete either individually or in a small group setting. Seven labs participated and spanned the engineering gamut, from drone technologies to aerospace to water resources and geotechnical testing. Sprinkled throughout the weeks of lab time were additional educational opportunities such as resume workshops, public speaking and presentation trainings and site visits to various local employers. Participating industry partners included KAI Hawaii, Trane Technologies, Raytheon, Austin Tsutsumi & Associates, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, Booz Allen Hamilton, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, SSFM International, and Burns & McDonnell.

At the helm of JESSE were a team of the College’s Engineering Student Ambassadors, current students who conduct STEM outreach programs and plan college events throughout the year. JESSE lead and rising mechanical engineering senior, Dedrick Sakuma, was on site daily and not only handled the program coordination and logistics but also developed a mentor relationship with many of the interns, joining them daily for lunch with other ambassadors and advising them on academics and college life. “Working with these rising high school seniors was definitely an unforgettable experience,” said Sakuma. “It was a pleasure getting to know them and we hope to see many of them at UH next fall, or else back in Hawaii in the future as engineering professionals.”

The internship culminated in a final evening at UH in which the interns enjoyed dinner and presented their research findings and program outcomes to an audience of family, friends, mentors, and college faculty. Dr. Song Choi, Assistant Dean for the College, was one of the many attendees who were blown away by the interns’ caliber of work and presentation abilities.

“Having been involved from the beginning of the UHM CoE summer internship program from twenty years ago, the quality of internship projects and the professional presentations were both beyond any caliber displayed in any of the past years,” said Choi. “This year’s project groups were exceptionally articulate and detailed in their project scope and results. I truly commend
all the effort provided by the organizers and mentors. Fantastic!”

In a post-program survey, the interns provided overwhelmingly positive feedback on their experiences, with 100% of the group ready to recommend JESSE to others. What did they love? Applied learning, industry access, and new connections were the biggest highlights. It was a “great opportunity to meet similarly-minded engineering students and get hands-on experience working on engineering projects,” said one student. Another liked the program because it “gives you a good glimpse into what engineering looks like professionally and it allows you to network and meet really cool people and mentors.”

High school students with a serious interest in engineering are encouraged to learn more about the program at and check back at the end of 2022 for more information on next year’s application process.

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