The 4th annual EMER-GEN® Program returned to Maui September 12-14 with young professionals and students pursuing space careers excited to meet once again in-person after a year of virtual. A joint initiative of the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference and the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), the program focuses on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among the cohort.
Throughout the program, which included three pre-event webinars, participants were challenged to hack and solve problems with critical-thinking exercises to create new opportunities for space-based technologies. Discussions ranged widely, from effective multi-cultural communication and leadership qualities to inter-agency cooperation for long-term sustainability of the space environment. A mentor session assisted with career choices and opportunities, and specialists in Space Situational Awareness (SSA), Space Traffic Management (STM), and Space Domain Awareness (SDA) presented short courses to upgrade technical skills and keep the cohort abreast of recent developments in these fields of special interest.
“MEDB was honored to provide a dialogue platform for the 36 young professionals who joined the 2021 EMER-GEN cohort,” said Sandy Ryan, Conference Director for MEDB. “This experience continues to provide a significant pathway into future careers.”
Along with MEDB, three young professionals helped shape the program. Two representatives nominated by SGAC, Quentin Verspieren, Space Policy Researcher with the University of Tokyo, and Christine Dubbert, a Project Engineer with York Space Systems, were joined by Maui resident Micah Nishimoto, an undergraduate student of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California.
“I have been involved with SGAC since 2019 and am one of their national points of contact for the United States,” said Dubbert. “We meet peers across the globe through the United Nations, have a chance to shape future policy, and see firsthand the way industry is going. EMER-GEN, in line with SGAC, fosters greater collaboration across the various sectors of the space industry and supports the continued development of a peaceful, inclusive, and global space community.”
Verspieren, who was unable to make the trip to Maui, noted, “The ability to conduct EMER-GEN in hybrid format with three online seminars followed by in-person activities allowed us to get the best of both approaches: great cohort dynamics with an opening to the world.”
Nishimoto added, “I was humbled to be part of the organizing team. EMER-GEN was a great opportunity to learn about space engineering, space policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Being born in Hawaii, I was introduced to Native Hawaiian values early on. I thoroughly enjoyed helping to plan the opening discussions about symbiotic relationships and the importance of working together.”
Lokahi – Lessons from the Reef
After a welcome reception on the first evening, the program kicked off on the Monday with Ramsey Taum, Founder and President, Life Enhancement Institute of the Pacific, and Director, External Relations and Community Partnerships at the University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management. Taum is recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for his transformational leadership in sustainability and integrating cultural place-based values into contemporary business models. He advocates team building, strategic partnerships, community brilliance and creative thinking.
“In Hawaii, sense of place is important: knowing where you are from, who you are, and where you are going,” said Taum. Those questions are important in all communication. The analogy of the reef shows us each part working in harmony. Often when we discuss diversity, the purpose of it is really to come together, in unity. Hence the cohort, coming from different cultures and nationalities, are here to work towards one goal.”
“By integrating sustainable Native Hawaiian cultural values and principles into contemporary business we can reframe, refocus and redefine complex situations, scenarios and problems. When we agree to disagree, with aloha, we find that we are truly one people.” concluded Taum.
“I welcomed the icebreaker that Mr. Taum and our team coordinated,” said Nishimoto, who collaborated with Taum to frame the presentation for the cohort. “It involved stones that everyone brought with them. This opportunity allowed us to convene and to transit from ‘me to we’. By placing our stones in one jar, telling our name and where we are from, we became a cohort. This transition granted us a chance to build common ground.”
Katlynn Vicuna, Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory, commented, “This was such a meaningful presentation. Even though I am from Hawaii, Mr. Taum helped me gain more insight into what ‘working together’ means, in my job and in my life.”
Jesse Greaves, University of Colorado, Boulder, said, “I enjoyed learning about the true meaning of aloha and the many Hawaiian spiritual terms that Mr. Taum explained to us. He truly showed the importance of all people working together to get the best results, no matter what field of work they are in.”
“This was a great presentation! recalled Rachit Bhatia, LeoLabs. “Listening to how to improve our actions, and then align our thinking to our actions, in our work and in our life, is vital. Mr. Taum gave a spiritual presentation, showing the aloha way is the way for the world. His wisdom and knowledge are inspirational. He shared how we can draw upon age-old wisdom and knowledge to find meaning in all things. His definition of the word Hawaii as Ha- (Life giving breath), wai-, (Life giving water), and i (Supreme life giver), was overwhelmingly impressive.”
Decision-Making under Uncertainty
Dave Baiocchi, a founding partner at Imaginative Futures, followed up with a presentation on innovation that integrated original, multidisciplinary research with technology and design trends to help stakeholders adapt in a rapidly changing world. He discussed how to work across the technology sectors to identify and articulate the factors that will affect the future of their decision-making.
Baiocchi emphasized, “It is vital in the space industry to accrue the skills and tools to work with business leaders in all the specialized fields. My goal is to offer suggestions to articulate and navigate the key inflection points, including economic, organizational, social, policy, and technological perspectives, that inform leadership decisions.”
“Mr. Baiocchi launched into a thought-provoking and highly entertaining lecture on decision-making in times of uncertainty,” shared Benigno Sandoval, Los Alamos National Laboratory. “His presentation was full of practical lessons about reframing the problem and asking the right questions to move toward the best solution and ‘refilling the well.’”
Jesse Greaves, University of Colorado, Boulder, pointed out, “Mr. Baiocchi helped me envision decision-making with sophisticated, technology-enabled solutions. His rope exercise, ‘to knot or not to knot’, was fascinating and had people on each side of the problem defending their position.”
Renowned space specialists from an array of fields related to SSA, SDA, and STM offered the cohort advice on educational opportunities and key programs to help advance their future careers, goals and milestones.
Mentors included: Alex Fielding, Privateer Space; Michael Gleason, The Aerospace Corporation; Jacqui Hoover, Hawaii Island Economic Development Board; Diane Howard, Sur L’Espace; Doug Loverro, Loverro Consulting, LLC; Daniel Porras, Secure World Foundation; David Mullins, Millennium – A Boeing Company; Moriba Jah, University of Texas at Austin; Mark Mullholland, Office of Space Commerce (MITRE), IPA AFRL; Stacie Williams, U.S. Space Force; and Laura Ulibarri, KBR.
Moriba Jah, University of Texas, Austin, reflected, “I think it is important to be a mentor because if the work we are doing is critical and important, we need continuity. At some point, the next generation takes over and if we have not prepared them then we risk not having that continuity. Mentors can reassure young professionals and students, they can validate, and they can provide other connections. There are many mentors who helped me along the way in my own career. Relationships matter.”
“Anytime I am mentoring young people I get so energized by their excitement concerning their careers,” noted Stacie Williams, U.S. Space Force. “Also, when I hear their questions, it often makes me look at things from a different perspective.”
Maui-based Alex Fielding, Founder of Privateer Space, said, “The young people here today, focused on their education and careers in space, are going to be the builders of the future and the leaders of the companies. At this conference they are learning tools for building diplomacy by working together as teams. Being an EMER-GEN mentor allowed me to share my own expertise in an environment that might not happen anywhere else.”
“Mentoring the next generation is key to maintaining the space environment,” stated Diane Howard, Sur L’Espace. “Sharing my experience in space law and interagency work will assist the cohort in their specialized fields, helping them make better decisions in the future.”
Katlynn Vicuna noted, “Presently, I am not sure which career path I want to follow. It truly helped to talk to mentors from academia, military, and industry to broaden my skill set and my network. The mentor session was specifically valuable to me.”
Benigno Sandoval commented, “Most EMER-GEN participants considered this the most valuable portion of the program and it is easy to see why. These mentors were all fantastic at conveying useful tidbits and intriguing stories from their careers, opening up about their perspectives while being genuinely enjoyable to interact with.”
Sandoval added, “As an early career professional it is invaluable to see what a career in the industry could entail. The mentors offered a perspective on the breadth and significance of various disciplines, and most importantly connection and context for what is out there and how to get started. Even small moments of initial connection lead to significant growth and future benefits. Thanks to MEDB and all the mentors for this experience.”
University of Hawaii Student and intern and Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL), Kalila Philips, said, “The mentors offered amazing advice that was personalized to my interests and goals. I find that with any topic, there is always more to learn. During these short talks, the mentors were able to exchange their knowledge and words of advice that I will carry with me throughout my career.”
“This is my third EMER-GEN,” shared Aaron Rosengren, University of California, San Diego. “The experience with the mentors has given me an opportunity to meet new people in the different areas of the space industry, especially those I would never meet as an aerospace engineering professor. Over the years, the mentors have provided me with a broader perspective of what is currently going on in the field, and the importance of how to approach different problems. Hearing different viewpoints are vital in the space industry”.
Kala’imoana Garcia, Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory, recalled, “The mentors opened so many new doors of opportunity for me because of their diverse backgrounds. The talent and creativity of the mentors and the information they presented were of such a high caliber. They gave me the confidence to be more open-minded about my future in the industry. In addition, the connections I made at EMER-GEN will provide opportunities to work on future projects with those working in other disciplines.”
Consensus Building – Interagency Consensus on International Treaty on Space Weapons
In a role-playing exercise, the cohort teams were called to the White House and assigned to different interagency groups to produce a consensus showing U.S. leadership on how to deal with kinetic weapons in space. In his role for the exercise as Deputy National Security Adviser, presenter Doug Loverro, (Loverro Consulting LLC and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy) was asked to deliver a proposal to President Biden to present to international partners at a G7 meeting. Space policy expert, Dr. Diane Howard, Principal at Sur L’Espace, provided background in a talk on The Hierarchy of Norms, that helped the cohort negotiate for the consensus proposal. Daniel Porras of Secure World Foundation was also available to assist the groups in their discussions. In a preparatory webinar, Porras had presented an international perspective on a treaty on space weapons.
The agencies considered in this exercise were: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Space Policy, Department of Defense; NASA Orbital Debris Program Office; Office of Space Commerce, Department of Commerce; Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Office of Emerging Security Challenges, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Department of State; Secure World Foundation; Satellite Industry Association
Loverro said, “Potential solutions are difficult to agree on. This exercise was designed to give the EMER-GEN cohort strategic advice and guidance on how to handle multiple elements of national security through establishing policy and guidance to assure the U.S. and its allies a safe space environment. The general cohort consensus was for a non-binding agreement for space debris mitigation assuring the right to protect the U.S., and for the international community to be included. Discussion and policy coordination between agencies is key for a U.S. resolution concerning space kinetic weapons and the hazardous debris they create.”
Diane Howard, Sur L’Espace, stated, “In our consensus we wanted to make sure that what we put forward to the President is something that is achievable and pragmatic. The legal framework of the law from an international standpoint is key to consensus building as it relates to U.S. space policy and space activities.”
“Although at first I was a little hesitant about how this activity would go, it turned into one of my favorite events,” said Sandoval. “I found myself getting caught up in the exciting discussion that unfolded as Mr. Loverro led us through the conversation that might occur when pressures are mounting and stakeholders have important but varied concerns and agendas.”
Rosengren pointed out, “Space law and policy-making are difficult fields. Space is its own domain, with its own physical, legal, and political dynamics. Hardly any of the work necessary to develop the conceptual foundations for space arms control has been done, let alone to define how to meet the conditions for measures that are equitable, verifiable, and enhance U.S. national security as laid out in current U.S. policy. Diane Howard’s talk helped us distinguish between hard, binding law and soft, non-binding law; a huge help in our consensus exercise.”
Garcia commented, “I learned so much about space law and policy that will be vital to my career. Being technical and wanting to build rockets and satellites, the importance of rules concerning space weaponry and debris is key. In the future, because of the growing problem, I will work on building satellites that can be more disposable and will burn up to prevent further accumulation of space trash.”
“The Consensus Building session was challenging, educational, and interactive,” said Shaylah Mutschler, University of Colorado, Boulder. “It furthered my interest in space policy. I want to stay technical; however, learning space law is a big part of working in the space industry, so I am grateful for this experience.”
Jesse Greaves observed, “Sustainable norms of behavior for space activities are more vital than ever with the ongoing traffic congestion in orbit. Political and legal issues surrounding space security are as challenging as the technical issues we work on. This was definitely an educational experience!”
On the final day of EMER-GEN, the cohort worked in seven pre-assigned teams to develop a proposal that offered potential technological advancements in one of the following three areas: Space Logistics- Opportunities; Space Domain Awareness; and Commercial Technologies and Practices for the DoD.
The cohort were introduced to the Hackathon on the first of three pre-event webinars with a presentation by Tom Kubancik, Trusted Space Inc., with the goal for the young professionals to learn to understand the SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) process and/or to build a business project.
“I congratulate every team,” said Kubancik at the conclusion of the program. “I was amazed walking around the room to see the comprehensive collaboration going on in terms of technical solutions, talent and experience. The level of work and creativity were of the highest caliber. I see this cohort working together to solve tough problems for the betterment of the industry.”
The morning session culminated in brief 7 minute pitch presentations by each team with judges listening for significance of the problem being solved; innovation; and approach to the solution.
The judges were: Richard Chong, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Satellite Analysis Center (SATAC) and Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC); Jacqui Hoover, Hawaii Island Economic Development Board; and Doug Nelson, Founder, President and CEO of Kinection.
Nelson said, “To echo what Tom said, every presentation was creative in their innovation to solve a certain problem. I felt that every presentation told a coherent story about an innovation that addressed an important industry challenge. The cohort came together as teams to identify a specific problem and go after it with an innovative solution.”
“I had the privilege of being a mentor and a judge,” emphasized Hoover. “I am so inspired with everyone in the cohort. This group has taken us in a transitional way to how to think versus what to think. The judges looking at their projects recognize many points of nexus—the cohort and the entire industry could easily work with each other on programs and innovations presented at this Hack-a-thon, and the AMOS Conference.”
Richard Chong, SATAC and MHPCC, stated, “There were different focus points from each group tackling serious problems that the industry is currently facing. The winning team, the Locus Project, was most impressive for being pulled together in such a short period of time. They had a strong grasp of the technical understanding of cislunar space. Their approach for this novel capability is something that we are tackling right now at AFRL. The Locus Project and all the teams did a great job!”
The Locus Project team members included: Harry Krantz, University of Arizona Steward Observatory; Capt. Nathaniel Griffith, SMC SPGZ, Space-Based SDA; Cidney Hopkins, Hawaii Pacific University; Kristin Pratt, AFRL Information Directorate; and Rachit Bhatia, LeoLabs.
Capt. Griffith explained, “The pre-webinars helped us a lot with developing our Locus Project. The competition was fierce. We learned so much from this whole experience. It was fantastic to connect with other cohort members in the industry. The subject we chose is vital to today’s space industry challenges.”
Bhatia commented, “Thanks to the diverse background and experience of the team members with radars and SSA, our team was judged as winners of the 2021 Hack-a-thon! I got to learn a lot from each team member and to thoroughly contribute within a short span of interaction with this diverse group. This overall process made me believe that productivity peaks when exchange of ideas is combined with swift action and active brainstorming. Truly a unique experience!”
Hopkins added, “The Hack-a-thon was a new experience for me and it was fun to see how Nathaniel, Harry, Kristin, Rachit and I approached the project from different angles. I think we were all very excited to have been selected as the winning team.”
Krantz reflected, “EMER-GEN and the Hack-a-thon was a wonderful way to meet people my own age who are also passionate about space. I am honored to be part of the Locus Project and the work we were able to produce. I also look forward to staying connected with the cohorts and mentors I met throughout this conference.”
The EMER-GEN cohort shared projects throughout the event and made lasting connections. Participants were also provided with technical short courses that served to expand technical job skills and support developments in several respective fields of interest.
“EMER-GEN is important,” emphasized Kubancik. “Each year the program enriches the cohort’s effectiveness to work in a global environment. Our industry is strengthened when we are inclusive and incorporate the ideas of every age group and nationality. This cohort is bright and smart. I learned a lot from them! MEDB has successfully evolved the EMER-GEN program over the years. They keep it fresh while staying true to its roots in terms of development of the young intelligent people in our industry.”
Islam Hussein, also of Trusted Space, Inc., who joined Tom as a mentor with the Hackathon and provided a video resource on product market fit, added, “I wish I had a program like EMER-GEN when I was starting my career. This event is such a wonderful opportunity that I am honored to be part of. By sharing my own experiences with the young professionals, I gained new perspectives from them as well. It is great to give back by encouraging the youth in their career choices.”
“Being part of the EMER-GEN planning committee was a once in a lifetime experience!” said Christine Dubbert who helped shape the hackathon portion of the program. “I had the opportunity to meet and network with my peers from across the industry and learn more about the broader space domain. I was in the short course, The Dynamic Co-Evolution of Space Policy and Technology: Historical Overview and Lessons for Assessing Future Trends. As a history lover, I really enjoyed the opportunity to dive into the past of space policy and see what lessons we can learn from that in order to create a better future.”
Dubbert added, “The MEDB team were wonderful to work with! As a first time participant in EMER-GEN and AMOS, they really showed me the ropes and gave thoughtful feedback to my suggestions. I was so excited to meet the team in person and build on the relationships we had formed virtually.”
Katlynn Vicuna expressed, “This was my first official conference and I really enjoyed talking to all the different people from different backgrounds. I loved hearing their stories and experiences. Overall, I feel I accomplished a lot. I got to work on some confidence-building and technical issues, meet new friends, and bond further with my current colleagues. Being able to have casual conversation about my future career possibilities with the mentors and people already in those jobs was invaluable. I gained new insight into what I potentially can become!”
“EMER-GEN provided a remarkable opportunity to network, interact, engage, and learn by meeting some of the most distinguished people in the space field,” said Rachit Bhatia. “The cohort participated in excellently planned activities which ranged from workshops on decision-making with uncertainty to a hands-on Hack-a-thon and invigorating sessions about consensus building and leadership. Generally, I found the group to be very diverse and knowledgeable, with individuals having backgrounds ranging from an international policy undergraduate to an astrodynamics assistant professor. EMER-GEN was a great opportunity to know how impactful, yet closely connected, the space industry is.”
Di Wu, University of California, San Diego, reflected, “EMER-GEN, a very unique journey to experience, was a truly intricate connection in not only the field of SSA but also any work or research field. From the spiritual perspective to technical, from high-level understanding to practical interaction, from heated discussions to social networking, the conference is the place to learn and grow. It brought the cohort together from different perspectives, backgrounds, and specialties to a shared experience towards the common destiny of mankind’s space program development. Most importantly, a fun time with both old and new friends. EMER-GEN makes AMOS even better.”
Kalila Philips said, “As an undergraduate engineering student, I often hear about very technical jobs and opportunities that I would like to know more about. Throughout this conference, I got to network with people who work in space policy, law, marketing and other specialized fields I am not familiar with. This was a key experience for my career.”
“EMER-GEN has furthered my career in so many ways,” concluded Aaron Rosengren. “Over the years, the people and contacts I made by participating in the conference remain priceless. The technical courses have provided continuing education in cutting-edge issues, and MEDB’s welcome and pau hana receptions offer the cohort a relaxed environment to network and share ideas.”
Harry Krantz added, “From beginning to end, EMER-GEN was a great experience. I really appreciate MEDB’s hospitality. Their team were not just the presenter and host; they really got involved in all aspects of our topics and sessions. Thank you MEDB!”
The 2021 EMER-GEN Program was supported by Advertising Partner, Millennium Space Systems; GEO Sponsor, Privateer Space; and LEO Sponsors a.i. solutions and Trusted Space.
SAVE THE DATE for EMER-GEN 2022: September 25-27.