skip to Main Content
Books, Pens, And A Mask On A Desktop

The state of the College of Engineering

On August 23, 2021, the College welcomed back about 1,400 students to campus for the start of the fall semester. Fall classes are currently being delivered via a mix of online, hybrid, and face-to-face formats, in a semester that is being viewed as a transitional semester for the university. Under the leadership of Dean Brennon Morioka, faculty and staff remain committed to serving their students and providing the same quality education while adjusting to ever-changing conditions, such as the COVID-19 Delta variant.


Join the College for the following events in fall 2021. You may learn more about these and other events by visiting

  • Leadership Seminar Series, presented by the Hayashida Family – join us for these 1-hour virtual conversations with inspirational local leaders, from 11:00-12:00 each month. September 3: Micah Kane; October 1: Keiki Pua Dancil and Ka’iu (Leslie) Kimura; November 5: Lori Kahikina and Ed Sniffen; December 3: Jennifer Sabas.
  • Fall Career Day, virtual and on campus – 2 sessions! Tuesday, September 21 from 9:00-12:00pm online and Friday, September 24 from 1:00-4:00pm at Holmes Hall. Employers, students, and alumni may register to participate through the above event website.
  • College of Engineering Faculty & Staff Awards Ceremony – Friday, September 17 from 2:00-3:00pm via livestream from Holmes Hall.
  • Fall Convocation – Friday, December 17 at 5:30pm. More details to come.

Read on for highlights from the college for the 2020-2021 academic year.



New faculty – due to the State’s current restrictions on hiring, no new faculty were hired in the last fiscal year. However, the college has established its hiring priorities for the future, with plans to add faculty positions in all departments when economic conditions allow.

August 2020:

  • Yi Zuo invented a groundbreaking method that allows direct visualization of surfactant films on the lungs of premature babies.

September 2020:

  • Tyler Ray and Magdy Iskander were featured in Honolulu Magazine for their influential research in the field of wearable technology.
  • Zhuoyuan Song received nearly $400,000 in NSF funding to conduct research with underwater mobile robots that will continuously collect data to enhance the study of the world’s oceans.
  • Dilmurat Azimov and his team received support from NASA to design a new academy with the mission of providing engineering opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s underrepresented and underserved students.
  • David Ma and Brennon Morioka received commendations from Governor Ige for the College’s autonomous vehicle testing pilot program with the Department of Transportation at a virtual bill signing event.

November 2020:

  • Joe Brown received almost $500,000 from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to develop a potentially game-changing technology for aerospace and electronics manufacturing.
  • Albert Kim’s new book, “Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC): Past, Present, and Progress,” was published.

December 2020:

  • William Uspal received a $110,000 boost from the American Chemical Society to support two PhD student researchers to study research on petroleum processes.
  • Yi Zuo and William Uspal collaborated on a review article published in ACS Nano that presented a multidisciplinary understanding of the airborne transmission of COVID-19.

February 2021:

  • David Ma and Jian Yu’s findings on extracting energy when freshwater and saltwater mix were published in Nano Energy.

March 2021:

  • Dean Brennon Morioka was featured in the Transmissions From Hawai‘i podcast, speaking about the impact of ALOHAnet’s wireless technology.
  • Tyler Ray teamed up with researchers from Northwestern University to develop a skin-mounted sticker for diagnosing cystic fibrosis, one of the most common life-shortening genetic disorders.

April 2021:

  • Zac Trimble received UH’s annual Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
  • Tao Yan’s research results from gathering and analyzing local wastewater samples indicated that wastewater is a reliable indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community.

May 2021:

  • David Ma’s startup team Polū Energy made the finals in the University of Hawai‘i Venture Competition for their renewable ocean energy technology concept.
  • Woochul Lee secured an NSF grant worth over $600,000 to implement educational and mentoring initiatives to grow the participation of Native Hawaiians in engineering.

June 2021:

  • Roger Chen directed the inaugural Pacific Summer Transportation Education Program, a summer camp for high school students delivered both in person and virtually for students in Hawai‘i, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

July 2021:

  • Kim Perez Hults was named to Pacific Business News 40 Under 40 for 2021.



September 2020:

  • Douglas Ellman and Brenden Minei each received a $5,000 Scholar Award from the ARCS Foundation-Honolulu Chapter for their excellence in doctoral research.

October 2020:

  • Frendy Lio Can, Willy Chang, Keenan Lee and Spencer Young formed one of four North American teams to make it to the finals of EduHacks 2020, an international hackathon.
    The Rainbow Warriors Racing (RWR) team received a 5-year, $60,000 pledge from Toyota Hawaii to help design, analyze, manufacture and test a fully-electric race car.

November 2020:

  • Students involved in Vertically Integrated Projects (VIPs) showcased their work in a virtual poster session featuring videos of their projects.

December 2020:

  • Maddyson Jeske was selected as the recipient of the Professor Bruce Liebert Award from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
  • The UH Drone Technologies team was featured in the UH Fall Undergraduate Showcase, presenting their work on increasing the efficiency of search-and-rescue missions using autonomous drone technologies.

January 2021:

  • Arif Rahman and Kareem Elassy, along with Professor Aaron Ohta, made up one of 20 teams selected to advance to the semifinals of the American-Made Solar Prize, a US Department of Energy Competition, through their startup enterprise, Hawaiʻi Innovation Lab.

March 2021:

  • Nearly 20 students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Society for Humanitarian and Sustainability Engineering helped to beautify the UH Mānoa campus by organizing a campus cleanup.
  • Abdulrahman Alghamdi received a prestigious, full-tuition scholarship from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to continue his research into developing infrastructure for self-driving vehicles.

April 2021:

  • The ASCE student chapter received three prestigious awards from the ASCE national organization for the excellent activities, achievements and services demonstrated in the previous year.
  • Viet Sang Doan received the university’s Student Award for Excellence in Research for his work involving microparticles in the Thermofluids Lab.
  • Marc Ivan Manalac led a team of students to the finals in the National Security Innovation Network’s “Beat the Blaze” competition, creating a plan for a long-range outdoor fire detecting system.

May 2021:

  • Team Hālona was selected as one of seven winners in the joint U.S. Department of Energy and NOAA Ocean Observing Prize: Design Contest, for an exceptionally innovative wave-powered autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) charging station.
  • The Concrete Canoe team was invited to participate in ASCE’s national competition, this year held virtually, after being selected as the Wild Card entrant.

June 2021:

  • Team Hōkūlele won second place in the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) 1030 Competition, successfully launched their 15-foot rocket and payload in the national competition in Mojave, California.
  • Members of UH Parcel Service (UHPS) created a wireless prototype delivery vehicle capable of traveling up to four miles per hour, carrying a load of up to 300 pounds, traversing up inclines of 15 degrees and delivering and receiving packages.
  • Harrison Togia and Khaldoon Ishmael received $5,000 Scholar Awards from the ARCS Foundation—Honolulu Chapter.



Multiple facilities received equipment upgrades, such as the Clean Room with its new maskless lithography tool, an MLA150 system from Heidelberg Instruments. The instrument, worth over $500,000 and funded primarily by an NSF grant, uses ultraviolet light to rapidly generate intricate patterns. The CoE also received a new Markforged Metal X 3D printer from the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) for educational and research purposes, which is part of a three-year joint-use agreement between the organizations. A small unveiling ceremony was held in November featuring both College and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and IMF personnel.

Additionally, College of Engineering students participated for the first time in a program called “Hacking for Defense” (H4D), an initiative run by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that empowers students to solve engineering-related issues facing the military today. The inaugural spring course, co-taught by Marvin Young, a UH Mānoa mechanical engineering adjunct professor, had students developing minimum viable products to address existing challenges in national security.

Outreach efforts to our local K-12 students continued to gain traction with the College’s continued involvement in the Engineering Sector Partnership and related efforts to build a STEM-capable workforce with a cradle-to-career approach. One such new program that launched, EngineeringHI, is a new intensive academic mentorship program in partnership with James B. Castle High School in Kāne‘ohe to create a bridge between high school and college students, allowing high-performing undergraduates to connect with and mentor high schoolers needing extra assistance in math and science classes on a nearly peer-to-peer level.

Virtual events were the norm, but they were by-and-large successful and achieved the same goals as their in-person predecessors. These included: Career Days (fall/spring), the Faculty and Staff Awards Ceremony, Convocations (fall/spring), Open Houses, Junior Expo, and the Annual Banquet, which exceeded its fundraising goal and brought together hundreds of those from the local engineering community.

A new event, The College of Engineering Leadership Seminar Series, launched in the spring, bringing in a different community leader each month to share their wisdom and experiences with students, staff, and alumni. Spring speakers included Stanford Carr, Mayor Blangiardi, Glen Kaneshige, Lance Wilhelm, Susan Eichor, and Susan Yamada.

ALOHAnet, the revolutionary wireless technology that was born at College in 1971, was celebrated with an IEEE Milestone Dedication Ceremony in October and again in June with the 50th Anniversary Mini Symposium that brought together wireless communications experts from around the country to celebrate its development and impact on modern life.

On a somber note, ALOHAnet founder and Professor Emeritus Norm Abramson passed away in December, which added another level of meaning to the subsequent Mini Symposium and gave friends and colleagues a chance to remember his contributions.

The College also mourned the loss of Horst Brandes, a longstanding professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who passed away in November.

In academics, the aerospace engineering concentration is posed to grow after AEC, which launched in 2019, was approved to be transferred from the BS in engineering science to the BS in mechanical engineering beginning in fall 2021. This move will streamline curriculum offerings, as many courses in aerospace engineering overlap with mechanical engineering.

The College received many generous donations from industry this past year to support its students, research and programs, including: $160,000 from Nan, Inc. to fund a scholarship for civil and environmental engineers; an extended commitment from SSFM for over $264,000 to fund multiple scholarships; $5,000 from Trane Technologies to support the Native Hawaiian Science and Engineering Mentorship Program; and a pair of anonymous $1 million gifts from the same donor to establish the college’s first endowed chair in honor of world-renowned Hawaiʻi engineer Alfred A. Yee.

Back To Top