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Started in 2012, the Engineering Student Ambassador (ESA) program was developed to increase recruitment and retention at the UHM College of Engineering. ESAs are undergraduate students trained to engage in STEM outreach to K-12 students and work with industry partners by planning and coordinating events throughout the year. This program provides our ESAs valuable public speaking and leadership training as they pursue a career in engineering, and sparks excitement about our college – and the field of engineering at large – with Hawaiʻiʻs youth.

We encourage you to reach out to the ESA team to schedule a presentation for your school or request assistance with your upcoming STEM-related event. They may be reached via email at engsamb@hawaii.edu or phone at (808) 956-0776.


Phillip Amona
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Phillip Amona

Major: Computer Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2023

Hometown: Mililani, Hawaiʻi

High School: Kamehameha Kapālama High School

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: I chose to become an engineering major in my senior year of high school. I wanted to work in a field where I could apply multiple areas of math and science to benefit others.

Why you selected UH:  I originally wanted to study outside of the state for college, but I chose UH due to financial reasons. However, I’m glad that I did, since this gives me better opportunities for jobs and internships near my home.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: Arranging & playing music, mostly piano; archery; watching Arrowverse shows; leading RAPS Club.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I enjoy the rigorous challenges found throughout the engineering program. I also like how each degree is extensive enough that there can be a wide variety of possible careers available to me after I graduate.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: Make the most of your college years. Remember that each year costs money, and there are many opportunities across the UH campus for you to try out before you graduate. Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons!


Jared Antonio
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Jared Antonio

Major: Electrical Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2024

Hometown: I was born in Sunnyvale, California and lived there up until 2015, when my family moved to Hilo, Hawaii. I consider both places home.

High School: Waiākea High School

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: I decided to become an engineering major my senior year of high school. I have always been fascinated with how things work and how things in our world affect each other. Due to this curiosity I originally planned to pursue a degree in physics. Through research and guidance from teachers and family I realized engineering was a way to focus my curiosity about the world around us in a way that can positively impact others, and I made the decision to major in Electrical Engineering.

Why you selected UH:  Initially, I wanted to return to California to further my education. But after some thought, I realized that UH Mānoa offered better opportunities for me to grow and learn, while staying in a place that I love.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: I enjoy hiking, spending time at the beach, cooking, lifting, and playing guitar.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I enjoy the people the most. Everyone, both staff and students, are friendly and always willing to help. The college of engineering really embodies the idea that together we can achieve more.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: As students a lot of the stress and pressure we experience is often put on us by ourselves. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities, and focus on what you can do now and not on what you can’t control. Relax!


Mia Casparian
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Mia Casparian

Major: Electrical Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2024

Hometown: St. Clair, Michigan

High School: St. Clair High School

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: From a very young age, I have always had an interest in math, electronics, and medicine. In high school, I discovered that I could combine both of the disciplines in pursuing a degree in electrical engineering with a biomedical concentration.

Why you selected UH: Growing up my family and I visited Hawaiʻi Island a lot. We would always have a joke that one day I would go to school here and that they would retire in Hawaiʻi. When I was in 8th grade my family followed through and bought a house on Hawaiʻi Island and planned on moving in after I graduated. Once they bought the house attending UH was one of the easiest decisions, and then our family joke became a reality.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: For fun, I enjoy snorkeling, hiking, trying new foods/restaurants, biking, reading, figure skating, and hanging out at the beach.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I most enjoy that there is an actual sense of community within the program. The advisors are there to support you, other students motivate you, and teachers want to help you understand concepts. Anywhere I have been on campus people are always willing to help.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: My advice is to remember that college life is a balance. Academics are extremely important but taking care of your mental and physical health is equally as vital. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed, but it’s important to remember to take breaks and reset.


Adam Hu
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Adam Hu

Major: Electrical Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2023

Hometown: Kāneʻohe, Hawaiʻi

High School: Hawaiʻi Baptist Academy

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: I decided that I wanted to become an Engineering major about halfway through high school. I do well in math and science and enjoy problem-solving and making things, so engineering seemed like a good choice for me.

Why you selected UH: I chose UH after attending the College of Engineering’s Open House. I was impressed by their labs, and it seemed that I would receive a solid education at UH.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: In my free time, I like to play my guitar and write songs, go to the beach, play video games, and read.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I enjoy the opportunity to participate in the VIP program and get involved in an engineering project.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: Take advantage of all the advising opportunities provided to you by the college. It can be confusing at first to know what classes you need to fulfill your major, so having a guide can be quite helpful.


Khaldoon Ishmael
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Khaldoon Ishmael

Major: Electrical Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2022

Hometown: Kirkuk, Iraq

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: I am easily amused by science and technology, it’s one big puzzle. I learned to fix most things that broke in my house at a young age, from fixing the TV and Radio. Engineering captivated me because it is the foundation of all technology. As a student majoring in Electrical Engineering, all the processes considered for even the most straightforward assemblies have always fascinated me.

Why you selected UH: The professors at UH Mānoa all have a similar goal, and it is to make sure that students comprehend and succeed in school. UH, Mānoa is the definition of a melting pot. You will meet and see so many people with different ethnicities, and the best thing out of all of it is that most students are friendly and get along.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: I like to go for a run, kayak fishing, and I am fascinated by muscle cars. For the extracurricular activities, I took a swimming class at UH Mānoa for two semesters.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I enjoy doing research that allows me to travel and attend conferences to meet other students from different colleges. In addition, I like mentoring freshmen students and sharing my knowledge about electrical engineering classes.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: Engineering is teamwork, so it is essential to know other students, make study groups by joining clubs and research projects. Additionally, take advantage of the great opportunities that the College of Engineering provides to students like scholarship, internships, networking, and future job offers.


Joshua Lorica
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Joshua Lorica

Major: Computer Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2023

Hometown: Kailua, Hawai’i

High School: Hawai’i Baptist Academy

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: I enjoyed Math and Science in high school so Engineering seemed like a great fit for me. I also enjoyed programming which is why I chose Computer Engineering specifically.

Why you selected UH:I chose UH because it was the best option for me financially.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: I like to stay active whether that be working out or playing sports. I also enjoy going to the beach, going on hikes, and playing video games.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I enjoy the opportunities to learn hands-on in labs and projects.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: Step outside your comfort zone and push your limits. I believe this is the best way for personal growth. Also, take advantage of every opportunity that UH and the College of Engineering offers.


Brandon Pang
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Brandon Pang

Major: Pre-Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2025

Hometown: Kailua, Hawaiʻi

High School: Kamehameha Kapālama High School

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: I decided to become an engineering major because I was always good with science and math courses in high school. When I was a child my favorite toys were Legos and throughout my life I would always like to do handy things around the house. With my plans to join the military I want to help the military by improving its technology and keep its status as the best military in the world.

Why you selected UH: I am in the high school class of 2020 and due to COVID-19 I was having a hard time deciding on what school to attend. I picked UH because they had a plan laid out for me unlike the other schools I was accepted to. They were clear on what they wanted to do in terms of online, hybrid or in person. UH extended their commitment date unlike the other schools so this showed great management by the school. Knowing that management was good I picked UH because I could trust them when it came to executing things in hard times.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: In my extra time I usually like to do projects around the house. I like using machines and with the pandemic the last 1.5 years I have had the time to try everything around the house from car mechanics to pressure washing, cutting the grass, and painting.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: The one thing that I enjoy most about the college so far is how they have managed online school. Since I am only a freshman going into sophomore year I believe that the only thing I can really talk about is management. The college of engineering has adapted quickly to the new online school environment and they still are carrying out what they need to do.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students:  The one thing I would tell the new students is to meet with your advisors. Being lost my freshman year advising really helped me with my plan and guided me through it as semesters went by. I also got motivated and had a purpose instead of taking random classes not knowing if I had to be in them or not.


Dedrick Sakuma
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Dedrick Sakuma

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: Fall 2023

Hometown:Ewa Beach, HI

High School: Kamehameha Kapālama High School

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: In my senior year of high school I actually wanted to become a lawyer but, I thought, do I really want to do that? So, because I was exposed to robotics, cars, and basically anything that moves and involves building things at a young age I decided why not go with engineering. I took all types of math, science, and engineering classes in high school and really enjoyed the challenges that it gave me.

Why you selected UH: I was going to attend out of state but due to more important events happening here at home I decided to stay home.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: When I am not working or doing school work I really enjoy going to the beach. Whether it’s surfing, barbequing or just throwing a pole out, it’s always a good way to relieve stress. I also enjoy spending time with my family in my free time.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I enjoy the many opportunities that the engineering program provides. It allows me to use the skills that I learn in school and really put it to use.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: Enjoy your time in college because it doesnʻt last forever. Have fun but at the same time do good in school because you do pay for it. Lastly, take advantage of the opportunities that the school provides and donʻt be ashamed or shy to join different clubs or activities.


Elizabeth Talioaga
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Elizabeth Talioaga

Major: Electrical Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2025

Hometown:Pearl City, Hawaiʻi

High School: Waipahu High School

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: I have always favored my STEM classes and I love to build and create. Once I was in highschool, being in the Electronics technology pathway really established my interest in engineering. I found the theory really interesting and loved the hands on aspect.

Why you selected UH: I felt like UH Mānoa was the best fit for me because of the friendly and welcoming environment and amazing academic programs. I want to go into renewable energy and I am very passionate about helping to take care of the Earth. I feel that UH Mānoa is one of the best places to do this. Most importantly, I am able to stay home and give back to my community.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: I am a member of the UH Band! I have played at various athletic events and in a concert band.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: I enjoy learning new things about my field of engineering. The courses and content are very comprehensive so I know once I graduate I will be prepared to enter my field.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: The College of Engineering and UH Mānoa in general can be a great support system. If you are ever unsure, there are advisors, professors, and mentors that will be there to help you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. There are so many resources that the College of Engineering provides its students.


Christianne Young
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Christianne Young

Major: Computer Engineering

Anticipated Graduation: May 2023

Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaiʻi

High School: Hawaiʻi Baptist Academy

When and how you decided to become an Engineering major: Math and science were my favorite courses in high school, so I knew that I wanted to pursue a STEM major. My interest in the constant innovation of technology helped me decide on studying engineering. I enjoyed programming and computer engineering allowed me to gain knowledge in both software and hardware development and design.

Why you selected UH: UH was the most cost effective option for me, and receiving a scholarship to the university gave me the ability to pay for my education independently.

What you do for fun, and any extracurricular activities: I like watercolor painting, baking, and spending time with friends and family in my free time.

What you enjoy most about your program/the college: The coursework challenges and encourages me to excel in my classes. I am able to relate the concepts I learn in class to real world situations, making me eager to learn and expand on topics from my courses. The faculty advisors are there to help me succeed and to work with me in figuring out the best paths to achieve my goals.

Any advice to incoming/prospective students: Push the limits of your comfort zone and take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. Allowing yourself to grow in unfamiliar situations is rewarding.


Former ESAs

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