Physical scientist Stacie Williams thrives on learning the latest developments in her field at the annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance (AMOS) Technologies Conference presented by Maui Economic Development Board. She especially enjoys a conference feature that offers a day of hands-on science activities for youngsters. “Their engagement is our motivation,” said Williams, a program manager who oversees educational outreach projects for the Air Force Research Laboratory. The lab is actively participating in this week’s AMOS conference at the Wailea Beach Marriott. An international assembly of space situational awareness experts has gathered for events that provide technical interchange on a variety of space-related technologies. In addition to technical sessions, participants are attending a special Space Policy Forum to hear current issues and trends in national and international policies that have impacts on their work.
For Williams, one of the highlights of the conference is welcoming hundreds of Maui youngsters to the conference venue. The students are given an opportunity to learn about space situational awareness topics by engaging in varied activities from viewing celestial bodies through a telescope to maneuvering hand-held spectrometers to determine characteristics of objects in space. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s partners with MEDB in association with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, the Maui High Performance Center, Pacific Defense Solutions, and the Boeing Company for the student day activities. “Every year our student activities get more complex and more engaging,” said Williams, who has helped to coordinate the activities for the last four years. “Everybody has embraced this and I think we just get better every year.”
Williams said she’s received overwhelming, positive feedback from scientists and other space situational awareness experts about including students at AMOS. “Bringing in the youth education element provides a wonderful synergy, a rare opportunity that more technical conferences should exploit since we are losing leadership in scientists and engineers to the rest of the world,” a senior project engineer wrote. Williams hopes that the student activities will inspire some of them to consider a career in science and technology. “We really need to get more young people interested.”