Kofi Asare, a second-year electrical and computer engineering student, is taking his interest in avionics — electronics systems used on aircraft — to greater heights.
In fall 2023, Asare took a semester “off” from his coursework and completed a three-month long avionics internship at Stoke Space. The space launch company based near Seattle, Wash., aims to revolutionize access to space using 100% reusable rockets designed to fly with a 24-hour turnaround, a feat that has yet to be done.
On Sept. 17 , Stoke Space launched Hopper2, the company’s reusable rocket prototype, for a flight test meant to demonstrate the rocket’s novel hydrogen and oxygen engine capabilities.
During his internship, Asare performed a number of hardware tests facilitating vehicle testing and software testing which simulated environments for rockets as if they were flying.
“Seeing all the projects come to life like Hopper2 was such a rewarding experience after spending a while working on part of something so complex,” Asare said. “This gave a ton of motivation for all the engineers and myself to move forward at full speed!”
Based on interactions with engineers at Stoke Space and elsewhere, Asare realized how many engineering students have only classroom-based, theoretical experience, while companies need employees with real-world experience.
“The theoretical world versus the real world are two very different things. There’s lots to consider in the real world when you’re implementing ideas and that’s a huge value in this particular internship.”
In many ways, Asare saw how the calculus from his coursework literally came to life through rocket launches.
Journey to CU
Asare’s family inspired him to pursue a STEM education. His father, a radio frequency engineer, and mother immigrated from Ghana to Arvada, Colo. for a chance at better economic and educational opportunities. His sister, a fellow CU Boulder student, is majoring in molecular and cellular developmental biology, while his brother is a mechanical engineer.
“As a little kid, I was always taking apart my toys,” said Asare. “It was always about exploring what was inside of them and having that curiosity to just dig deeper and discover what was going on behind the surface.”
While Asare said that diversity was lacking in his high school experience, participating in CU Engineering programming through the BOLD Center helped connect him with peers who have supported each other along the way.
“It was honestly eye-opening to me joining the GoldShirt program, where most people around me were from diverse ethnic backgrounds,” said Asare. “We all have that same common goal in engineering of trying to improve the world around us — that was very special for me to see.”
Why Electrical & Computer Engineering?
“Electrical engineering is a driving fundamental force behind almost everything we use in the practical world,” Asare said.
Even beyond electrical engineering, Asare said, one can study almost any type of engineering and still end up in the aerospace industry. At Stoke Space, he met engineers across disciplines such as electrical and computer, mechanical, structural engineers and computer scientists.
“When it comes to electrical at Stoke, there were lots of different disciplines I saw at play, from PCB design/assembly to flight vehicle harnessing and more, all needed to make that rocket fly,” he said. “Electrical and computer engineering is often literally behind the faces of things made in other engineering disciplines that people generally see, but don’t necessarily think about.”
Curiosity for Kofi
During his first year at CU Boulder, Asare joined the Sounding Rocket Laboratory (SRL), one of CU Boulder’s largest student organizations focused on developing and testing rocketry.
“Getting involved with SRL allowed me to dive into the niche of learning to build actual rockets and see them take flight,” said Asare. “What’s quite special is the ability to use professional software to gain that practical experience sought after by a lot of companies.”
Asare thrives off of collaborating together in a community while leaning in that passion for learning to get things accomplished.
With internship rocketry experience under his belt and getting back into engineering courses this semester, Asare hopes to land a future opportunity in aerospace or avionics.
Whether it’s designing rocketry on campus, developing the next generation of reusable rockets or taking flight on his own, Asare channels that curiosity without any limitations.
“That curiosity is still driving me today,” said Asare. “The further I dig, I find that there are just infinite questions to this world’s wonders but almost just as many answers and answers to be.”
Top Photo: Kofi Asare at Stoke Space in Washington State; Bottom Photo: Printed circuit board which Asare used during his internship!