April 29, 2021

By LAWT News Service


P3 Innovation Center Inc. and the Cape Town Space Society announced the launch of the first two labs in an international network of laboratories that will be focused on integrated applications of lasers, electronics and optical technology. In addition to applied research, product development and technology test & certification services, the LEO Labs will offer paid apprenticeships to community college and university students as well as a variety of workforce training and youth outreach programs in STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

The new LEO Labs in Irvine and Cape Town will be officially named the Hildreth “Hal” Walker Jr. Lasers, Electronics & Optics Labs. The LEO Labs in Irvine will be located at the P3 Innovation Center for People, Planet & Prosperity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving the United Nations’ Social Justice and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Brian Hagerty, founder and co-executive director of the P3 Innovation Center will serve as lead program director for the LEO Labs. Mr. Hagerty met the Walkers in 2011 and began a now decade-long science, engineering and education collaboration that has led to the launch of the Hildreth Hal Walker Jr. LEO Labs. 

Hildreth “Hal” Walker Jr., president of the Cape Town Space Society, is a true pioneer of lasers, electronics and optical technology. After serving in the U.S. Navy as an electrician’s mate aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Rendova where he became an expert in power electronics, Hal Walker was hired in the 1960s by Ted Maiman, the inventor of the laser and founder of KORAD Lasers in Santa Monica, California.

While at KORAD, Walker served as the firm’s field operations manager in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission’s Lunar Laser-Ranging Experiment (LURE), becoming the first man to successfully fire a high-powered ruby laser at retro- reflector mirrors placed on the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong; thus, using lasers to accurately measure the distance between the Earth and Moon. Walker served as a NASA /Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador for 20 years.

In 1991, Prof. Hal Walker and his wife Dr. Bettye Walker launched an after-school education organization known as A-MAN Inc., offering STEM programs to under-served populations in the Los Angeles area. Then, in 1997, the Walkers organized a journey to Cape Town along with some of their program’s students, ages 8-13, where the group met with South Africa’s president Nelson Mandela. Mandela was so impressed with the students that he asked the Walkers to bring their A-MAN programs to South Africa. In addition to their long-standing International STEM Discovery programs, the Walkers co- founded the Cape Town Space Society in February 2019 with the mission of working to create a spacefaring civilization.  

“Especially at this time,” Professor Walker said, “with the global challenges of climate change, public health, job creation and social justice, the mission of the LEO Labs aligns with the missions of A-MAN Inc. and the Cape Town Space Society, providing a tremendous opportunity for economic and workforce development as well as for inspiring new generations to imagine, to innovate and to serve.”

Category: Business