By Sara Fukuda
Watching a project in action is the most rewarding part of Riley Ceria’s job. Being an electrical engineer, Riley does various projects that include dealing with the telescope upgrades for the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and operated by the California Institute of Technology. The word, “submillimeter,” means smaller than a millimeter, which means that the observatory studies stars, galaxies and nebulas through their radio wavelengths to gain an understanding of how these stars were formed. This is probably the only way stars can be studied because they are born in cold, dark molecular clouds, which are often too opaque to be viewed optically and too cold to emit infrared wavelengths. Riley is in charge of designing, testing, programming and debugging the electronics equipment that makes the telescope work. He installs temperature sensors on the telescope that record data in a computer so that it can be used to help correct signals that are distorted from the temperature gradients, automates mirror controls, tests new electronics devices for the next generation of receivers and other related highly technical projects.
In high school, Riley remembers printing out different careers that would match his personality, and one of the jobs that printed out on that list, was an electrical engineer. While at Waiakea High school, he excelled in all his math and science classes and enjoyed the interaction he had with other people. He was part of the school’s tennis and cross-country teams and active in six school clubs, including the Leo Club, Math League, Math Bowl, Science Bowl, Science Club and the Chess Club. He is still at Waiakea some afternoons, where he is a mentor with the school’s robotics program.
Riley enjoys playing tennis, games and robotics in his free time. After graduating in 2001 from Waiakea High School, Riley began his college life at the University of Manoa, which he says has the best engineering program. He completed two senior projects when only one was needed. While a college student, Riley worked in the ITS department at University of Hawaii at Manoa, completed an internship at the Department of Water Supply in Hilo and tutored at the Waiakea Kumon Center. He also volunteered with Waiakea High School’s Special Education program during the summer.
Besides the satisfaction that comes with the successful completion of his many projects, Riley likes his flexible working hours. He enjoys working on automation software because he can see things move through his program commands. Designing robotics software allows him to design packages, which include power design, digital, analog and optoelectronics and even some mechanical designs. Because he enjoys using problem-solving skills including math and science, he has fun doing his job.