UP to train 8 new Filipino satellite makers

| Written by Andre DP Encarnacion

 

The University of the Philippines (UP) Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (EEEI) will be training the second batch of Filipino satellite builders in nanosatellite engineering under the Space Science Proliferation through University Partnerships or STeP-UP Program, at the core of which is the UP EEEI’s Masters in Engineering program.

The second landmark batch of STeP-UP scholars met virtually last November 6, 2020 with the pioneering STeP-UP Class of 2019 their successors in a kick-off ceremony over Zoom.

The event was attended by many prominent names in the Philippine space science and technology industry, including Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) Director General Joel Marciano, Jr., DOST Science Education Institute Director Josette Biyo, and UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo, among others.

The STeP-UP Scholarship is a component of the STAMINA4Space program, which aims to build a healthy and vibrant space infrastructure in the country. (Find out more about the STeP-UP Program here.) With the help of UP’s partner, the Kyushu Institute of Technology (KyuTech), the first batch of STeP-UP scholars was trained in the first ever Master’s in Engineering in Electrical Engineering program, with a special focus on nanosatellite engineering, at the UP Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (EEEI). The pioneering class used the knowledge they gained to create the first locally built nano- or cube satellites, Maya 3 and 4.

While barely being over a kilogram in mass each, the satellites can contribute considerably to the country’s economic, territorial, and disaster risk reduction efforts. Their predecessor, Maya 1, for instance, which was built by two Filipino students at KyuTech, had the capacity to communicate with ham radios on the ground and carried two cameras with wide-angle and narrow-angle lenses to capture photos and videos when it was launched back in 2018.

 

Screenshot from the STeP-UP Project Batch-2 Scholars Kick-off Meeting.
Screenshot from the STeP-UP Project Batch-2 Scholars Kick-off Meeting.

 

“Though it is very much smaller than its predecessors, its importance to communication and disaster-related concerns is not diminished,” said UP College of Engineering Dean Ferdinand G. Manegdeg. According to him, photographs taken by these smaller satellites can very much be used by policymakers and stakeholders to craft policies that will impact the environment. “Saying that these nanosatellites are essential to the economy is an understatement.”

While the pioneering class of STeP-UP scholars are in the process of finishing their degrees—in addition to Maya 3 and 4, which they plan to hand over to JAXA for launching in February 2021—the second batch will be hard at work in applying their knowledge to launching Maya 5 and Maya 6. According to STAMINA4Space Program Leader Gay Jane Perez, they hope to finish their pair of nanosatellites by 2022.

Coming from a broad range of backgrounds, these upcoming STeP-UP scholars also come from various regions in the country. They include: Gio Asher Tagabi from Quezon City; Chandler Timm Doloriel from Surigao del Norte; 2nd Lt. Genesis Remocaldo from Clark Air Base Pampanga; Anna Ruth Alvarez from Misamis Oriental; Angela Clarisse Chua from Manila; Joseph Jonathan Co from Valenzuela City; Ronald Collamar from Bulacan; and, Khazmir Camille Valerie Macaraeg from Quezon City.

According to STeP-UP Project Leader Paul Jason Co, scholars like those in the upcoming batch are essential if the Philippines is to build its capabilities in satellite building, and in space technology in general.

“Capable scientists, researchers, and engineers must be trained to sustain the ecosystem,” he said. And while both batches have hit understandable rough patches in their progress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Co remains confident that the scholars will be able to make their mark in Philippine space sci-tech history on schedule.

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