Yes, it’s rocket science at Windward Community College

Within the Hale ‘Imiloa building, there are undergraduate students constructing rockets. Every day, students work with physics instructor Jacob Hudson on projects aimed at getting students interested in science and excited about space.

 “We (Windward) lead in rocket and propulsion studies compared to the other community colleges,” Hudson said.

The program is supported through the Hawai‘i Space Grant, which according to Hudson was created as educational outreach for NASA to promote engineering on college campuses.

Hudson has been promoting the Hawai‘i Space Grant at WCC for more than 20 years. During that time, the grant has covered a variety of activities and opportunities such as the TARC program, which brings high school students to WCC and introduces them to the technology, materials and methodologies that NASA uses when working on a project. The hope is that these students will take an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and will invest their futures in engineering and possibly NASA. The TARC program has expanded into middle school and kindergarten, trying to get even younger generations interested in space.

The Hawai‘i Space Grant also supports student participation in rocket competitions. This September, three WCC students went to the ARLISS (A-Rocket-Launch-for-International-Student-Satellites) competition in the Black Rock desert in Nevada, taking part in a rocket launch and meeting many big names in the field and gaining valuable networking opportunities. The payload the students launched did not go into space but soared about two miles up. At apogee, the rocket deployed a quadcopter, which then landed about two miles from the target area.

Many students who have been involved with the various Hawai‘i Space Grant programs at WCC have become successful within their respective STEM fields. For instance, according to Hudson, alumna Joleen Iwaniec is now a team lead for Raytheon in Texas and alumna Elaina Barbour got her master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Rocket construction sessions for Hawai‘i Space Grant students are Thursday and Saturday afternoons. To become a space grant student, contact physics, astronomy and mathematics professor Joe Ciotti at For more information about the program, go to

by Jared Estrada , Special to Ka ‘Ohana