Engineering Professor Returns From Winter Project in Guam

While members of the Walla Walla University (WWU) community struggled their way through mounds of snow and subzero temperatures last winter, Rob Frohne, professor of engineering, enjoyed the tropical climate of Agat, Guam. Frohne spent winter quarter on sabbatical applying his electrical engineering skills at the Adventist World Radio (AWR) shortwave station for the Asia/Pacific region.

Frohne has helped at Guam’s AWR facility a few times. During this 10-week visit, the staff tasked him with uncovering why the transformers at the station caused the town’s lights to dim. “I was able to solve that problem while I was there,” he reports, “but as soon as you finish one problem, there’s another problem.” Frohne spent the latter part of his sabbatical continuing a project he started four years ago: making prototype filters for the transmitters.

The professor’s passion for radio developed as a child when his older brother gave him a shortwave receiver. “I grew up in Alaska, and at that time all the stations there were secular,” Frohne says. “I hooked [my receiver] up to an antenna and discovered that I could listen to this [Christian] radio station called HCJB from Quito, Ecuador, on the shortwave spectrum.”

A loyal listener, Frohne received an aerial photo of the HCJB campus in the mail. The forest of antennas at the station filled him with awe. “At that point, a dream materialized in this boy’s heart: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if the Adventists had a station like this?’” he recalls. “If you fast-forward to after I started teaching, I went out to help at AWR. I was out there working on their antennas and then it hit me — wasn’t this the dream I had as a kid?”

Sabbatical leaves require professors to gain experience in their field, but Frohne and his wife, Barbara, adopted the motto “work hard, play hard” for their stay. They kept busy even during off-hours, whether camping with the church or snorkeling in the ocean. “Sabbatical is kind of like a vacation, but it’s better than a vacation because you have a mission,” Frohne says. “I have to admit, I would have liked to hang around for a little bit longer.” Before returning home, they stopped in Pohnpei, where Barbara was a student missionary in the 1980s.

Frohne’s trips to Guam have not only given him “war stories” for the classroom — they’ve left him with valuable connections, which have even translated into hands-on lab projects for WWU engineering students. “When I go there, it’s kind of like seeing all my old friends,” he says. “It was an incredibly good sabbatical.”

If he keeps up with past trends, one thing’s for sure: Guam hasn’t seen the last of Rob Frohne.

Featured in: June 2017