Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Volunteer Experience in the Electronics Department

Larry Stine, with seismic-electronic equipment
By: Larry L. Stine

Retired Telecommunications Engineer, Graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology

During my three months at HVO (December 13, 2000-March 13, 2001), I worked with Steven Fuke and Bruce Furukawa doing carpentry, constructing the components for several equipment shelters, wiring and soldering several circuit boards, assisting in the testing of seismic electronics, and repairing and installing several field sites.

I am a recently retired telecommunications engineer who held essentially a desk job doing high-level planning of large systems. So, it was very satisfying to experience hands-on work as a volunteer, both in the shop and in the field. It was especially satisfying to see, within a few days, the fruits of my labor resulting in an operational site. I believe I lost about 10 pounds and added a little muscle mass.

Naturally, the experience was greatly enriched by the presence of the active volcano and lava flow, the opportunity to explore on weekends the Big Island and four of the other Hawaiian Islands and to experience the Hawaiian culture. Weekly staff meetings and the presentations by guest scientists opened up to me new perspectives in scientific investigation. Unexpected events such as a helicopter trip to the lip of Pu`u `O`o, the active vent, to help another department replace batteries on a camera station and participation in a Department of Interior helicopter safety class also enriched my stay. My wife was a volunteer in the HVO library and participated in one of my field activities.

The staff of the seismology department accommodated my lack of relevant experience in machine shop tools and their specific electronic equipment. In particular, Steven and Bruce spent much time explaining their equipment, processes and goals and walking me through initial construction of the equipment shelters and modification of the circuit boards. My experience as an electronics engineer was useful as I had professionally worked in RF telemetry. Ken Honma was also very helpful with day-to-day suggestions.

Once I understood what had to be done and how to do it I believe I was effective in helping them to upgrade their field sites despite my physical limitations in carrying heavy battery packs and bags of cement. Also, my experience in using my personal GPS receiver was helpful to Steven as he was in the initial stages of using a recently acquired GPS capability in his daily work.

As a sidebar, the head of the seismology department, Dr. Paul Okubo, recognized that I might have some insights into their recent work on applying modern signal processing techniques to seismic waveforms. Because I had experience in speech and radio waveforms, it turned out that there were some relevant and useful contributions I could make regarding their analysis approach. Also, I was able to identify specific telecommunications-based applications which could facilitate worldwide collaboration among scientists who would also be analyzing these waveforms.

In summary, if you are a recent retiree in good health who is looking for a rare mixture of science, practical carpentry and outdoor activity in an unusual setting, you should seriously consider the volunteer opportunity in this department of the HVO. If any prospective volunteer would like to contact me, my Email address is

Volunteer information

HomeVolcano WatchProductsPhoto GalleryPress Releases
How Hawaiian Volcanoes

The URL of this page is:
Updated: January 31 2012 14:30:37