MEMSI – The Wonderful World of Manufacturing

January 26th, 2019MEMSI

By Eric Wong '19 Possibly the greatest highlight of the MEMSI experience was exploring the Greater Bay Area, also known as the Pearl River Delta, the Silicon Valley of the East. Two days, a high speed rail ride, eight hours of busses and a night in a refurbished 1962 French passenger ship later, I had the chance to visit a Volkswagen factory, the home of Kinder Surprise toys, two hardware startup incubators, and the electronic-phile’s paradise! Taking the high speed rail from West Kowloon station to Guangzhou Getting a tour of the FAW-Volkswagen factory  The FAW-Volkswagen facility in Foshan featured an integrated production line starting from processing raw sheets of metal to finished cars. The 187,800 km2 facility is capable of producing 300,000 vehicles per year with the second half of the complex under construction, boosting that capacity to 600,000. Inside was an automation wonderland featuring lines of cars in various stages of the production process moving slowly but steady from the metalwork, to welding, to painting, and to quality control plus or minus a few thousand meticulously performed steps. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside of the facility. Cohort at Vigor Getting ready to enter the food-grade production line While you may have never heard of Vigor, you almost definitely have used things that contained their products. Most notably, it is the birthplace of the Kinder Surprise toys and a majority of the tiny gearboxes you find within windup toys. Most recently, they produced the mechanism behind the laceless Air Jordan [...]

By Eric Wong ’19

Possibly the greatest highlight of the MEMSI experience was exploring the Greater Bay Area, also known as the Pearl River Delta, the Silicon Valley of the East. Two days, a high speed rail ride, eight hours of busses and a night in a refurbished 1962 French passenger ship later, I had the chance to visit a Volkswagen factory, the home of Kinder Surprise toys, two hardware startup incubators, and the electronic-phile’s paradise!

Taking the high speed rail from West Kowloon station to Guangzhou

Getting a tour of the FAW-Volkswagen factory 

The FAW-Volkswagen facility in Foshan featured an integrated production line starting from processing raw sheets of metal to finished cars. The 187,800 kmfacility is capable of producing 300,000 vehicles per year with the second half of the complex under construction, boosting that capacity to 600,000. Inside was an automation wonderland featuring lines of cars in various stages of the production process moving slowly but steady from the metalwork, to welding, to painting, and to quality control plus or minus a few thousand meticulously performed steps. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside of the facility.

Cohort at Vigor

Getting ready to enter the food-grade production line

While you may have never heard of Vigor, you almost definitely have used things that contained their products. Most notably, it is the birthplace of the Kinder Surprise toys and a majority of the tiny gearboxes you find within windup toys. Most recently, they produced the mechanism behind the laceless Air Jordan 33s. Stored within their story facility were hundreds of lines of in-house designed and assembled semi-automated assembly lines, pioneering fully-automated multi-color injection molding, and several food grade production lines that collectively churn out 4,000 unique pieces on an average day.

Dinner talk with Vivo

As the fourth largest market share holder in China’s cell phone economy, vivo is a true communication giant. Over a dinner, we got to speak to a few members of vivo’s product design and brand strategy teams to hear a bit about vivo’s view on the future of communication and how they continue to position themselves amongst the fiercely competitive space of mobile phones. On the product design front, perhaps the most impressive aspect of vivo’s flagship product line is the consistent introduction of significant changes in the phone features including a pop-up camera to enable a truly bezel less display and a dual screen to redefine phone interaction. As an engineer, what was the most insightful and novel to hear about was the process of branding and forming strategic partnerships of which vivo has an impressive resume ranging from the 2018 Russian World Cup, NBA China, and numerous A-List celebrities.

Visiting the HAX Shenzhen Office 

HAX is a hardware startup venture capital firm based in Shenzhen and San Francisco. At the Shenzhen office, we got to tour the makerspace that they provide to the startups that they accept into their incubator program. In addition to providing each class of aspiring entrepreneurs with a complete suite of facilities, HAX employees are also available to consult on any aspect of a startup from business strategy to mechanical design, Among their successful startups includes Makeblock, a technology company that provides a suite of educational tools on programming through robotics.

Huaqiangbei

             Huaqiangbei is the mecca of electronics sourcing where anything and everything could be found. It’s in this neighborhood that there are buildings where you can buy all the components of and build yourself a whole phone. The things you can find at Huaqiangbei embodies one of the most unique things about this, its product development methodology. Empowered by the strong manufacturing capabilities of the facilities in the area, instead of a market driven approach of identifying key consumer needs and designing products to satisfy them, a large variety of products are simply produced and consumers are able to buy whatever best fits their needs. This provided a very stark contrast to the extremely methodical approach that we had been exposed to during our MEMSI workshops where the solution always came last.

Presentation at the PCH office 

PCH International is an international design firm that is unique in their expertise in the later part of a product’s timeline from conception to arriving at our hands. While many design firms are extremely capable in engineering and developing a product, few are internally capable of completing the manufacturing, packout, and distribution aspect. This is where PCH is uniquely qualified as they handle these final steps for many Fortune 500 companies’ products. This positioning in the product development field makes their hardware incubator program, Highway1, an intriguing place to further develop as an entrepreneur.

These two exploring the Guangdong and Shenzhen area of China really opened my eyes to the wonderful world of manufacturing. This aspect of product development was one that I had never really thought much about but as I quickly learned, designing for this step is so critical and requires a lot of dedicated thought and innovation. While there were certainly moments where I was blown away by the capacity of these facilities to push out so much product, it is also worth taking a moment to acknowledge the implications of this reality. Whether this was from the human labor still required for certain less automatable tasks, especially in final product packaging, to the amount of material used during the process, mass manufacturing is truly an astounding human accomplishment that has its many flaws. As manufacturing starts to move out of China where interest in filling factory roles is dwindling and the economics looks less enticing, it’ll be important to remember the ugly of manufacturing in mind and hopefully create a better re-incarnation of the wonderful world of manufacturing, wherever that may be.

 

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MEMSI – The Process

January 26th, 2019MEMSI

By Eric Wong '19 Today we decided to kick start our goal of tackling supermarket packaging waste by going on a field trip to a nearby supermarket to see firsthand what we’re trying to solve. At Taste, a mid to high tier market that is a few minute walk away from the HK Innovation Node, we were blown away by the amount of packaging that we saw. While there were your typical suspects of snacks, spices and seasonings, and grains, we also saw individually packaged fruits and pre-processed whole fish!             Plastic individual packing on fruits and pre-processed fish We also unexpectedly stumbled across a section in the store where they were selling oils and vinegars in refillable glass containers that they had just recently started offering. In a quick interview with the worker stationed there, we found out that this type of service was fairly popular and offers slight discounts to people who bring back the bottles, but requires a bit of work on the workers’ side to service the customers. These findings encouraged us that the problem we aim to tackle is a real one that would require a good amount of engineering to figure out a solution for all the different types of things that are packaged at a supermarket. 1.08: Primary Market Research Today we continued our primary market research but with a more conscious goal of interviewing both workers and shoppers. We also chose to visit three different types of [...]

By Eric Wong ’19

Today we decided to kick start our goal of tackling supermarket packaging waste by going on a field trip to a nearby supermarket to see firsthand what we’re trying to solve. At Taste, a mid to high tier market that is a few minute walk away from the HK Innovation Node, we were blown away by the amount of packaging that we saw. While there were your typical suspects of snacks, spices and seasonings, and grains, we also saw individually packaged fruits and pre-processed whole fish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic individual packing on fruits and pre-processed fish

We also unexpectedly stumbled across a section in the store where they were selling oils and vinegars in refillable glass containers that they had just recently started offering. In a quick interview with the worker stationed there, we found out that this type of service was fairly popular and offers slight discounts to people who bring back the bottles, but requires a bit of work on the workers’ side to service the customers.

These findings encouraged us that the problem we aim to tackle is a real one that would require a good amount of engineering to figure out a solution for all the different types of things that are packaged at a supermarket.

1.08: Primary Market Research

Today we continued our primary market research but with a more conscious goal of interviewing both workers and shoppers. We also chose to visit three different types of supermarkets: a zero-waste market, City Super, and Welcome to cover specialty stores, high end markets, and common markets respectively. At the end of the day, we had interviewed about 15 people covering the spectrum of experiences with packaging that we hoped for. The insights we received on the types of problems that exist with the current packaging situation, the complications to adopting a new system, and the difficulties faced by current zero-waste markets that will definitely be extremely useful in guiding our approach.

 

 

Food containers at the Live Zero, a zero-waste market

1.11: Requirement Prioritizing, Brainstorm Session, Market Segmentation

After the past two days, while we saw that no one was immediately saying that packaging waste was something that they wanted a solution for, their answers to tangential questions gave us confidence that it is something people do indeed want. With that in mind, we set today to using some of the exercises that they taught us in the Disciplined Entrepreneurship workshops to figure out what our customer base was and what things we would want our solution to address.

Ideating our project requirements

At the end of the day, we have a mentor session where we quickly explained the problem area that we wanted to address and the information we had gathered so far on it. In short, our mentors wanted us to narrow down the scope of who we were targeting as customers and nail down that the problem was one they explicitly said they would want a solution for.

1.12: Pivot?

We ended last night earlier to digest what we had heard during the mentor session so that we didn’t make any big decisions after what was already a long day. Going into today, we decided to each come individually with how we would want to move forward with the venture. After a team debrief, we decided to pivot. To facilitate this, we had a brainstorming session where we discussed a variety of ideas and utilized a Pugh Chart to help us objectively rate them and narrow down the possibilities. At the end of this exercise, we were down to four ideas, three of which we immediately started interviewing the rest of the MEMSI participants to get a sense of how common these problems we identified were.

Pugh chart of alternative ideas 

By the end of the day, we decided to redefine the scope of our problem statement to focus more upon a demonstrated customer desire for more custom packaging of a variety of dried goods that we felt would be a common need across a few groups such as students and people living alone or with a partner. We ended today with a few tasks to tackle for the next day.

List of to-do’s for the next day

1.14: Task Forces: Engineering and Design, Market Analysis

With a new problem area that we felt confident as a whole team to move forward with, we decided to start splitting up the group to focus on the various aspects of the project. At this early stage, we just broadly defined two large areas that we felt split the team up well: engineering and design tackled by Mike, Maggie, and myself, while market anaysis was tackled by Tim, Ilona, and Janice.

1.15: Pivot

We started off the day with a team check-in to make sure that we continue to share the same vision of our solution, in particular to talk through aspects such as our value proposition and market entry strategy.

In the afternoon, we have another check-in with the instructors Eliane and Marina who shared with us their concerns about the problem we identified being one that people would invest in. While they admired our shared passion for sustainability and approaching it through reducing supermarket packaging waste, they wanted us to confidently show them a market demand for a solution in this space.

The concerns that they shared with us were ones that we as a team shared, but didn’t put as much emphasis upon. However, we realized that to get the most out of the MEMSI experience, it was best for us to share the same emphasis as them. In that spirit, we fully embraced a full pivot and had another brainstorming session with a conscious effort to find a problem space different from what we started with.

Knowing the time pressure that we would need to overcome given such a late pivot, we grinded away as much as we could and had a present a half-figured out idea to a new group of mentors. By the end of the day, we we all burnt and had to call it a night but came away with a new idea: FYI-DIY, a not-for-profit social enterprise platform that enables a community of home-improvement doers of all backgrounds to come together and share with one another their hacked tools that make common tasks easier in a 3D printable format.

1.16: Most-nighter

With just a few days to fully flesh out this new idea, we continued to put in as much effort as we could today. In this accelerated timeline, we quickly went through all the exercises we did with our previous idea and split the variety of tasks up. We were short handed as Janice was out of commission due to a flu that spread throughout a majority of the MEMSI cohort. Tim and Ilona were in charge of the pitch and economic sustainability, Mike was in charge of the web-interface design, and Maggie and I were in charge of ideating, CADing, and fabricating as many solutions to common home improvement tasks as possible as an example of what people would find on our platform.

While the Node had quite a few 3D printers, as every team started to reach the point in their progress that they were ready to make physical prototypes, we quickly learned that access to them would be limited as some started breaking down for a plethora a reasons and prints would range anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours to finish. With this in mind, I ended staying at the Node until around 2:30AM to get a final print started before leaving.

Ultimaker starting to print at 3 am

1.17: All-nighter

The grind continued today to make sure that we had enough time to make some final updates on anything that didn’t work or could be improved. While we got Janice back to help out with the web interface and slides design, Maggie caught the flu bug and couldn’t come in today. With me as the only person on the team with some CAD experience and the low availability of printers, I ended up staying overnight to get as many prints in as possible. By the end of the day, we were in a pretty good place with several different designs for a few common DIY tasks, a web interface framework, and a skeleton of a pitch and slides with plenty of content to fill it out.

A fully 3D printed design of a potential tool to help with DIY painting 

1.18 Polish Polish Polish

With today being the last day to work out the last kinks in our work, the name of the game today was polish! I took two hours today off to go back to my hotel room to shower and nap after the long day yesterday. My team put in amazing work throughout the day, putting together a compelling pitch complete with a clear strategy to sustain our social enterprise economically and market research that demonstrated the readiness to adopt something like our platform. I join the slides design team and spent the rest of the day catching up on the presentation and helping clean up our slide deck.

One of the slides from our presentation!

1.19: Showcase

Today was the day! After a long two weeks and two long nights, we were as confident in our final solution as we could be. In a 7 minute presentation followed by 5 minutes of Q&A in front of a panel of judges coming from a variety of backgrounds ranging from a partner in venture capital firm to brand directors and professors along with an audience of about 100 family and friends, we presented FIY-DIY.

A huge congratulations to team ATEM who won the judges award who worked to redefine the asthma inhaler to be a sleeker design integrated with a variety of smart features.We were honored to share the Audience Choice Award with them! Our team owes many thanks to all the instructors, TAs, and mentors who helped us out throughout our journey and gave us all invaluable feedback.

The team after a successful launch!

 

 

 

 

 

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MEMSI – The Startup 101

January 25th, 2019MEMSI

By Eric Wong '19 1. The Team Here at the MEMSI program they identify three types of people: hustlers, hipsters, and hackers. The Hustlers are your deal closers, the ones who bring the money in. The Hipsters are your designers, the ones who understand the user’s needs. The Hackers are your realizers, the ones who know how to bring the idea into the physical world. Every successful startup needs to have a good diversity of personalities and skills. 2. The idea The more overrated aspect of startups is the idea but that isn’t to say that it isn’t important, just not as important as its usually said to be. The philosophy at MEMSI is Disciplined Entrepreneurship, a framework developed by Bill Aulet that maps a 24-step guide focusing upon the problem, not the solution. Under this framework, identifying and understanding a problem is king. At the start of the process, focus solely upon problems and not technologies. The Hitchhiker's Guide to Success - Disciplined Entrepreneurship Disciplined Entrepreneurship is a 24-step framework developed by Bill Aulet devised to provide guided thinking in creating a successful startup. Through the workshops at MEMSI, we were provided a high-level overview of this methodology toward startups which could be broadly grouped in the steps listed below with the exception of hypothesis testing being ‘How to design and build your product.’ The step that wasn’t covered in the formal workshops but emphasized throughout the initial days of MEMSI is finding a problem. Not a technology or [...]

By Eric Wong ’19

1. The Team

Here at the MEMSI program they identify three types of people: hustlers, hipsters, and hackers. The Hustlers are your deal closers, the ones who bring the money in. The Hipsters are your designers, the ones who understand the user’s needs. The Hackers are your realizers, the ones who know how to bring the idea into the physical world. Every successful startup needs to have a good diversity of personalities and skills.

2. The idea

The more overrated aspect of startups is the idea but that isn’t to say that it isn’t important, just not as important as its usually said to be. The philosophy at MEMSI is Disciplined Entrepreneurship, a framework developed by Bill Aulet that maps a 24-step guide focusing upon the problem, not the solution. Under this framework, identifying and understanding a problem is king. At the start of the process, focus solely upon problems and not technologies.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Success – Disciplined Entrepreneurship

Disciplined Entrepreneurship is a 24-step framework developed by Bill Aulet devised to provide guided thinking in creating a successful startup. Through the workshops at MEMSI, we were provided a high-level overview of this methodology toward startups which could be broadly grouped in the steps listed below with the exception of hypothesis testing being ‘How to design and build your product.’

The step that wasn’t covered in the formal workshops but emphasized throughout the initial days of MEMSI is finding a problem. Not a technology or innovation, but a problem.

Who is your customer?-

Different markets have different norms and needs that will necessitate a different solution.

After defining a problem that you and your team want to find a solution for, the first step is to redefine your target customer, whether that would be narrowing or broadening your scope. Often times, the problems that we choose to tackle are ones that we have a personal connection to, however it is necessary to ensure that the population that you can actually solve it for and makes economic sense for you to do so.

To illustrate this point, we did a case study on the startup, Perch, a company that enables velocity-based training for any athlete. Under this guided example, we went through the six steps of market segmentation, determining the beachhead market, creating a user profile, calculating the total addressable market (TAM), defining a persona, and finding the next customers

What can you do for your customer?-

Satisfy your customer’s needs and wants.

With a problem statement and customer in mind, now’s when you start to think of solutions and how to create something that is valuable to them. This is the part of the journey that, as an engineer, is the most exciting and the time to geek out but now is as important as ever to be remember who your customer is as to continue to be able to engage them and show them the value that you are able to bring to them.

In this workshop, we walked through these exercises as Spyce, a company that is elevating culinary excellence with technology. In their shoes, we defined a customer journey map, created a high level product specification, quantified their value proposition, defined their solution’s competitive 2×2, and defined their core

Hypothesis Testing-

I believe [target market] will [do this action/use this solution] for [this reason].

Up to this point, what you have as a startup is a hypothesis about the market, the customer, and the problem-solution fit. In the fast paced and highly time-sensitive situation that startups face, it is important to be able to fail fast and learn from the market by testing those hypotheses. However, with so many things to validate and questions to answer, it’s important to KISS (Keep It Simple S****d), and write a hypothesis that is testable and actionable immediately. If it doesn’t meet that criteria, dial back and ask for something simpler.

The information you can gather at this stage is as valuable as real money and it’s important to not lose sight of that there are many forms of ‘currency’ besides the $$$. Among these include: a yes to scheduling a meeting, actually scheduling a meeting, actually meeting, getting an email of someone else you should meet, being introduced to someone else you should meet, getting email addresses, and getting credit card information for pre-orders.

How does your customer acquire your product?-

There are many decision makers who are involved in a decision to buy a product with the end buyer being just one amongst a crowd.

            After identifying who your target customer is, the next important is to understand the entire journey they take to get to buying your solution. Working with Marcus Leung-Shea, the COO of Orii, a startup that offers a voice activated smart ring, we learned about his company’s approach to successfully bring their product to market. Among the many steps required was defining the decision making unit, discussing how to generate awareness, and going through Orii’s sales funnel that helped them narrow everyone from leads to suspects, prospects, and finally customers. Lastly, we analyzed different go-to-market strategies and their economic implications.

How do you make money off your product?-

KISS and figure out how much value you’re bringing to your customer.

            In this aspect of the business model, there are three ways about it: transactional (one-off), subscription, or ad-based. To help guide your decision, it’s important to look for comparable products in the market and realize that your customers will likely exhibit similar spending tendencies when it comes to your product. Along with this starting point, some common wisdom that we were taught was to aim for subscription-based to lower the costs associated with acquiring new customers, have high lift time value from those customers, and to price based on your value.

Scaling, financials, and raising money-

All you need is a good team, some money, and some luck.

With everything figured out, the next step for a startup is to become a business. In a workshop with Gordon Yen, co-founder and managing director of Radiant Venture Capital, we heard his analysis of what makes and breaks startups from his experiences as an investor. We learned about the difficult conversations that need to be made around how to determine equity and ensuring a healthy continued relationship among the co-founding team as well as what venture capitalists are looking for when hearing pitches from various startup teams.

Intro to Making

In addition to the Disciplined Entrepreneurship workshops, we were also taught various maker skills to enable us to understand and tackle various aspects of a prototype through foamcore, breadboarding, arduino programming, and soldering. While they were introductory workshops meant to teach just the basics, I got to appreciate and get a glimpse into the potential new projects I am comfortable tackling!

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TREX Goes Canoeing

January 25th, 2019TREX 2019

By Viban Gonzales '20 Today was another day of work in the morning and play in the afternoon. We will be presenting our research to some high school students on Friday, and we spent this morning preparing for it. Then in the afternoon, we went to Keauhou to experience outrigger canoeing. We put on our life jackets, got fitted for our paddles, and worked together to move the large canoe down into the water. Keauhou Canoe Club members guided us along the way. They taught us paddling technique and the connections to Hawaiian culture and history. We did a small lap inside the bay and then went out into choppier waters along the coast. We took a couple breaks from paddling, and some of us exited the canoe. Floating in the water gave me relief from the seasickness I felt just floating aboard. This seasickness disappeared once we started paddling again. We were becoming fatigued, but the club members encouraged us to continue and even increase the power we used paddling. I didn’t think that we could make it back since we seemed so far down the coast, but we did!

By Viban Gonzales ’20

Today was another day of work in the morning and play in the afternoon. We will be presenting our research to some high school students on Friday, and we spent this morning preparing for it.

Then in the afternoon, we went to Keauhou to experience outrigger canoeing. We put on our life jackets, got fitted for our paddles, and worked together to move the large canoe down into the water. Keauhou Canoe Club members guided us along the way. They taught us paddling technique and the connections to Hawaiian culture and history.

We did a small lap inside the bay and then went out into choppier waters along the coast. We took a couple breaks from paddling, and some of us exited the canoe. Floating in the water gave me relief from the seasickness I felt just floating aboard.

This seasickness disappeared once we started paddling again. We were becoming fatigued, but the club members encouraged us to continue and even increase the power we used paddling. I didn’t think that we could make it back since we seemed so far down the coast, but we did!

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TREX 2019: The Mission to Ascend Mauna Kea

January 22nd, 2019TREX 2019

By Peter Duff '20 On our sixth day on the island, we had a singular mission; ascend Mauna Kea, and do so in one piece. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano, stretching ear-popping 13800 feet into the sky, making it the highest point in the state. Its peak is sacred for the native peoples of Hawaii – and well above most clouds, an ideal location for telescopes. A small path in the foothills. We rose early to rent 4-wheel-drive vehicles for the journey up the slopes, as our minivans weren’t going to cut it. We drove an hour to the visitor’s center, already some 9000 feet above sea level, where we rested for an hour to acclimate to the altitude. Many of us already felt a little light-headed, and it would be much worse at the summit. The visitor’s center, from a nearby hill. After a quick lunch, we sat for a talk by Simon Radford, Director of Hawaii Operations for the Submillimeter Array, a massive radio telescope consisting of 8 separate 20-foot radio telescopes; the signal is then integrated by a massive computer with a Fourier transform to produce useful images. He explained to us as best he could (with our limited knowledge of radio telescopes!) how the telescope works, and its importance to astronomy. One of the 8 telescopes making up the SMA. After his talk, we locked the vehicles into 4-wheel-drive and started the final 5000-foot ascent up a winding dirt road. We tumbled out of the [...]

By Peter Duff ’20

On our sixth day on the island, we had a singular mission; ascend Mauna Kea, and do so in one piece. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano, stretching ear-popping 13800 feet into the sky, making it the highest point in the state. Its peak is sacred for the native peoples of Hawaii – and well above most clouds, an ideal location for telescopes.

A small path in the foothills.

We rose early to rent 4-wheel-drive vehicles for the journey up the slopes, as our minivans weren’t going to cut it. We drove an hour to the visitor’s center, already some 9000 feet above sea level, where we rested for an hour to acclimate to the altitude. Many of us already felt a little light-headed, and it would be much worse at the summit.

The visitor’s center, from a nearby hill.

After a quick lunch, we sat for a talk by Simon Radford, Director of Hawaii Operations for the Submillimeter Array, a massive radio telescope consisting of 8 separate 20-foot radio telescopes; the signal is then integrated by a massive computer with a Fourier transform to produce useful images. He explained to us as best he could (with our limited knowledge of radio telescopes!) how the telescope works, and its importance to astronomy.

One of the 8 telescopes making up the SMA.

After his talk, we locked the vehicles into 4-wheel-drive and started the final 5000-foot ascent up a winding dirt road. We tumbled out of the vehicles next to the submillimeter array; we were all feeling the altitude by that point. Speech was harder; the words were escaping us. Mild headaches set in, along with fatigue. We endured the symptoms as best we could, while Simon and an associate gave us a tour of the SMA.

Controls for the array. And, thankfully, an oxygenated room.

About half of the group was feeling brave (or foolish) and decided to wait for the sunset at the top of the mountain. We staved off the headaches with charades, and finally it was time. The result was spectacular.

A spectacular sunset over the pacific.

As the sun slipped below the horizon, it was time to descend. We stopped on the way back at a 24-hour pancake restaurant for some hearty Hawaiian fare – a Loco Moco bowl. A huge bowl of rice topped with a hamburger patty, chili, cheese, and 2 eggs. It was well worth the heartburn.

Yum. Highly shovelable.

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TREX – Day 5: Mauna Kea!

January 22nd, 2019TREX 2019

By Rayna Higuchi '20 REX Day 5: Mauna Kea! Today, we drove up Mauna Kea, the second-highest mountain on the island. At the top, there was none of the heat nor humidity we have come to expect here. Howling winds made it difficult to hear and tore the heat straight from our bodies, while sending clouds of dust up to spiral through the air. Many us began to feel ill, unsurprising at 13,000 feet. What few plants existed were shrubs scattered haphazardly across the landscape. It was a strong reminder of the many different climate zones that Hawaii Island can experience. What is especially interesting about the Big Island is the range of climates that it contains within such a small area. Due to its tropical location, the low-altitude areas are typical of what one thinks of when Hawaii pops into mind. However, due to a pair of very large mountains, there is a rain shadow across part of the island, creating more desert-like conditions in that area. And as you move up these mountains, the temperature drops, creating even more variety. Of the 13 climate zones on Earth, Hawaii Island contains 8 of them. In such a small space, that really is a tremendous amount of change. Landscape photo of Mauna Kea from a sub-peak. Mauna Kea is tall enough to place its peak well above the lower cloud levels. This makes it ideal for looking into space. A series of telescopes and other astronomers’ tools litter the many [...]

By Rayna Higuchi ’20

REX Day 5: Mauna Kea!

Today, we drove up Mauna Kea, the second-highest mountain on the island. At the top, there was none of the heat nor humidity we have come to expect here. Howling winds made it difficult to hear and tore the heat straight from our bodies, while sending clouds of dust up to spiral through the air. Many us began to feel ill, unsurprising at 13,000 feet. What few plants existed were shrubs scattered haphazardly across the landscape. It was a strong reminder of the many different climate zones that Hawaii Island can experience.

What is especially interesting about the Big Island is the range of climates that it contains within such a small area. Due to its tropical location, the low-altitude areas are typical of what one thinks of when Hawaii pops into mind. However, due to a pair of very large mountains, there is a rain shadow across part of the island, creating more desert-like conditions in that area. And as you move up these mountains, the temperature drops, creating even more variety. Of the 13 climate zones on Earth, Hawaii Island contains 8 of them. In such a small space, that really is a tremendous amount of change.

Landscape photo of Mauna Kea from a sub-peak.

Mauna Kea is tall enough to place its peak well above the lower cloud levels. This makes it ideal for looking into space. A series of telescopes and other astronomers’ tools litter the many small peaks that exist as small hills atop the goliath. We toured one of these, the submillimeter array, as part of our visit. They showed us around the facilities and gave us a brief overview of what the machines did. I was suffering from mild altitude sickness and didn’t catch a lot of what was said, unfortunately, but essentially the array is a series of telescopes that observe submillimeter wavelengths. This can help identify objects in space using radiation to determine temperature. Don’t ask me how these things correlate; I couldn’t tell you.

One of eight telescopes that constitute the submillimeter array. The disk spans 6 meters (20 feet) in diameter. [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

We also went inside the visitor’s center at the Keck Observatory. Many things were closed due to the shutdown, so we were confined to a small gallery and viewing area. Fun fact about the telescope: It weights 300 tons but is floating on a layer of oil four thousandths of an inch thick. A mere 10 pounds of effort at the top—well within the strength limit of a small child—can move the telescope.

Inside the Keck Observatory. [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

The day ended with a pastel sunset drifting below the clouds. Driving down in the fading light felt as precarious as it was beautiful, but we lived to tell our tale. All traces of headache and nausea died off upon descent, and we went to bed as well as ever.

Sunset from atop Mauna Kea. [Photo by Sierra Rosenzweig ‘20]

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