Diwata microsat: DOST scholars’ way of giving back

Marco D. Melgar
Diwata microsat: DOST scholars’ way of giving back
The country now harvests the benefits of years of steady investments in education

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine science and technology is off to a promising start for 2016.

The Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Micro-Satellite (PHL-Microsat-1), also known as Diwata, is set to launch in April. The country’s first Filipino-made microsatellite generated buzz as the country’s long-awaited entry into the space program. It was a watershed moment for Pinoy scientists and engineers.

Yet, what’s frequently overlooked in this achievement is the continued support by government in developing the science and technology (S&T) workforce that made Diwata possible.

Through the scholarship programs of the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI), the country now harvests the benefits of years of steady investments in education. DOST-SEI can claim to have directly contributed to the brain trusts behind Diwata-1, as two of them are former S&T scholars.

Of this formidable group, one DOST scholarship alumnus helped design and develop the 50-kilogram microsatellite as part of the 9-man team in Japan. The other is in charge of one of the 5 major components of the PHL-Microsat Program.

John Leur Labrador, a DOST Merit Scholar who majored in electronics and communications engineering at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, graduated cum laude in 2014.

Labrador did not take long in making an impact as part of the ‘Magnificent Nine’ as a designer.

Meanwhile, Dr Gay Jane Perez, a scholar under the Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development (ASTHRD) Program, is with the UP Institute for Environmental Science and Meteorology and currently a postdoctoral fellow at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

She led the group that wrote the remote sensing software for processing and packaging the data that Diwata-1 will gather.

Gay Jane Perez, an Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development (ASTHRD) fellow, led the team that developed remote sensing products for Diwata-1. Photo courtesy DOST-SEI

“The scholarship program has been producing quality leaders in S&T for many years and it certainly played a huge role in the Diwata project,” said Science Secretary Mario Montejo. He added that scholar-graduates who are part of the PHL-Microsat Program extend all the way to DOST’s top brass.

“Of course, some of the great minds behind the Program such as PCIEERD (Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development) Executive Director Dr Carlos Primo David; Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara; and others who share their expertise in this endeavor are former DOST Scholars themselves. They selflessly shared the knowledge they gained as science scholar-graduates as a matter of duty,” Montejo added.

Montejo said this side of the story needs to be told to inspire young, smart kids to someday become scientists, engineers, teachers, and innovators who have the knowledge, training, and adaptability to make their mark in the society.

“We are proud of the new trails our Diwata team blazed. My hope is for many more to follow their path for success. DOST has programs that can support them in their journey,” the science secretary said.

Diwata-1 is projected to orbit the Earth for a maximum duration of 12 months, prompting PCIEERD to develop the next microsatellite, Diwata-2, for possible launching in 2017.

“We can assure our DOST scholars have the sense of duty and concern to will continue contributing for the improvement in the lives of all Filipinos,” he added. – Rappler.com

Marco D. Melgar is a coffee maniac who sees light in the country’s science and technology arena.

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