Is the TMT Contested Case Hearing a Filibuster?

I’ve been keeping up with the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) contested case hearing that is now underway, and have watched most of it.

Sunday’s Star-Advertiser had a front page story on what’s currently happening with the hearing.

Testimony in the TMT contested case hearing started October 20, and there are still 80 more people to testify. This means that, at the current rate, the hearing could continue through the end of 2017. The paper reports it’s being called a “filibuster” by some.

I don’t think it will take that long, though. I say that for a couple reasons.

One is that most of the most important witnesses have already spoken. Another is that the judge has done a good job of letting the anti-TMT people know what they can and cannot do and what’s needlessly repetitious. The process is becoming more streamlined.

We who support building the TMT on Mauna Kea agree with much of what the opposition is saying. The culture must be accommodated.

We don’t want to be adversarial or to toss them out of the room; we just all want a seat at the table.

Our main difference is that for us it’s not “all or nothing.”  The anti-TMT people are pretty much “all or nothing,” whereas we think there should be some compromise to accommodate education.

From the Star-Advertiser article:

Telescope hearing called a ‘filibuster’

By Kevin Dayton

November 27, 2016

HILO >> After nine days of exhaustive questioning of a half-dozen witnesses in a contested case hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope, some TMT supporters are now privately describing the lengthy proceedings as a “filibuster” that will stall the project, and may even effectively block the $1.4 billion telescope from ever being built in Hawaii.

Testimony in the trial-like hearing for the proposed telescope began Oct. 20, and about 80 more witnesses are scheduled to testify. If the proceedings were to continue grinding along at their current pace of about six witnesses per month, the hearing would finally conclude sometime around the end of 2017,

Lawyers for the University of Hawaii complain the hearing so far has been characterized by “repetitive questions, attempts by cross-examiners to present their own testimony, and cross-examiners trying to argue with the witnesses and the hearings officer,” according to a recent UH filing. 

But opponents of the TMT contend in a filing with the state Supreme Court that the hearing process has been so flawed that they have been “deprived once again of any meaningful participation and any meaningful opportunity to be heard” in the contested case. Read the rest

photo Courtesy TMT International Observatory

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Cannabis Education – ‘Not a Group of Stoners’

June and I are in Las Vegas for some cannabis education. We are attending the 6th annual Marijuana Business Conference & Expo. And what I find so interesting is that everybody here is well-groomed and in business attire. You wouldn’t know this isn’t Washington D.C.

This is not a group of stoners with long hair and wild colors. The industry is maturing. These are business people walking around. There is a lot more regulation, and the more regulation the more uniformity and safety there is.

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The conference website calls it the longest-running, biggest and most respected conference for the cannabis industry, with 7,500 cannabis industry leaders attending. “The entire marijuana business ecosystem under one roof,” they call it.

Impressions from my first day

  • We really don’t know what all we don’t know. The possibilities of using cannabis medicinally are great. It is so exciting to be on the cutting edge.
  • We all (humans and many animals, too) have an endocannabinoid system, which is a series of receptors that accept cannabinoids only. It’s the reason our bodies so easily process cannabis. The way the cannabis plant and our endocannabinoid system interacts is really interesting. Read the Beginner’s Guide to the Endocannabinoid System to learn more.
  • Terpenes, which cause cannabis’ odor among other effects, interact with other compounds in cannabis. But we don’t yet know what the entourage effect is when terpenes interact with the various cannabinoids. “Cannabis is inherently polypharmaceutical,” Dr. John McPartland, DO, noted in the journal Phytomedicine, “and synergy arises from interactions between its multiple components.”
  • Indica vs. Sativa – it’s not that simple! Those are the two main cannabis species, but as a speaker at the Marijuana Science Convention in Portland pointed out, there are an incredible number of hybrids and crosses from from combining the two. When they showed all the dots indicating all the different combinations on a screen, it looked like the Milky Way on a dark night above Mauna Kea.

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There are so many things we don’t know yet. This is mainly because marijuana has been illegal and so we haven’t been able to do the studies.

Science is how we will make sense of it all. It’s very exciting and the potential is tremendous.

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Making Life Better, Part 3: Why These Big Island Issues?

I want to talk about why I’m involved in all these different Big Island issues: Geothermal. The Thirty Meter Telescope. The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative.

These are not random, unrelated concerns. They are all directly related to what’s happening in our world and on our island.

I am always working toward making our lives better here on the Big Island, and making this a better place for our children and grandchildren.

Everything came together for me when I started going to the Peak Oil conferences  in 2007. That’s where I learned about Charlie Hall and his theory of Energy Return on Investment (EROI).

What was interesting to me about that his is a biophysical approach. A systems approach. It doesn’t put everything into its own silo, but instead takes everything into consideration all together.

EROI boils down to one basic concept: You have to have net energy to survive. This concept is discussed as an economic concept, but really it goes all way back to biology. Think about a rainbow trout swimming in a river and catching flies. At the end of the day, it has to have caught enough flies not only to survive but also to reproduce.

It’s the same for every animal. Look at cheetahs. They’ve got to be able to run down antelopes and rabbits and whatever they eat, and still have energy left over to reproduce and raise their kids.

It takes energy to get energy. We have to be able to get at our source of energy – like oil – and still have enough left over to power our society.

This concept applies to organisms, organizations and civilizations – everything.

How These Big Island Issues Apply

I’m no scientist. I’m a farmer who’s spent a lot of time out there on the farm, dealing with the physical stuff, out in the rain and the dirt. I come at this practically, always remembering my Pop’s lesson about, Not no can, can.

I am always trying to find a solution to something or other by thinking hard and planning ahead. When I went to school I learned there’s a name for this. It’s called “contingency planning.”

And it’s what we need to be doing now. Contingency planning. We need to take sustainable actions now to prepare for a better future.

What makes a solution sustainable? It has be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

As for the economic part, people understand what you need to do to make that work. Environmentally, too.

What is generally missing, and what I gravitate toward, is the social part of sustainability: leaving no one behind. I always come at everything from that point of view.

When we look at the Big Island, we have the lowest median family income, a homelessness problem and many other social problems. When I look at solutions, I want to make sure they address these problems.

Solutions

From what I see, education is the game changer. There are clear correlations between education and family income. And education and family income have a strong impact on the other problems. It’s not very complex.

The TMT brings $50 million to our island,  earmarked solely for our kids’ education. And geothermal and the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative bring smart energy solutions to our peak oil crisis.

I’ve been influenced by my Pop, who taught me to look long term. When you’re looking long term, you don’t have to make radical decisions you might regret later. When you  focus on the long term, you can make gradual changes to get to where you want to go.

We need to have a sustainable energy situation, and that will help with everything else.

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Making Life Better, Part 2: Hawaii in the Information Age

Consider how history has impacted us here in Hawai’i:

Around 1000 AD, people were sailing back and forth to Hawaii. At the same time, the Crusades were taking place. Around the time Captain Cook arrives, in 1778, the Declaration of Independence has just been written.

By 1860, the Pony Express was delivering mail from New York to San Francisco in 10 days.

In 1908, Ikua Purdy, Archie Kaaua and Ben Low take the top award at the Cheyenne Rodeo – the pinnacle of rodeo competitions in the world.

In 1952, KGMB was the first TV station in Hawaii.

In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

In 2010, the “like” button was added to Facebook.

This timeline gives us a hint of how much Hawai‘i and its people have assimilated into the world around us.

This is not a bad thing. This country elected someone who grew up here as President of the United States. We enjoy our iPhones.

Our young folks under the age of 20 or so don’t remember a time before we pressed electronic buttons.

The Information Age

We are in an information age; an electronic one. It’s an age of learning by doing, which is what Hawaiian have done for eons. And it’s exactly what our group PUEO (it’s short for Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities) is reaching for.

When my friend Rick Blangiardi, general manager of Hawaii News Now (HNN), spoke at the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board’s annual meeting he gave an impressive talk about the history, as well as the future, of HNN under his leadership.

He said the most impactful thing to happen to the news industry was, “This.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPhone.

Shortly after that, there was a stand-off on Maunakea about building the Thirty Meter Telescope. Movie stars and sports heroes jumped on board and the story went viral.

Welcome to the world of real time news and to the Information Age. There’s no backing away now. We cannot pick and choose in which areas we interact with the world, or hide as though there are no outside forces affecting our lives here in Hawaii’i.

We’re all still adjusting, but this is a good thing. We aren’t only taking in information. We have something that is unique to the core of Hawai‘i, our aloha, that we can share instantaneously as well.

photo: Calerusnak at English Wikipedia

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Hawaii Energy Picture: Making Our Lives Better

How do we make the Hawaii energy picture, and our futures, better?

I sense that young folks know something needs to change in our modern world. And I see lots of folk helping each other cope.

This is all very encouraging, so I want to have a conversation: What can we do to make things better for all of us? I’m going to be posting about this in the next few weeks.

I’m going to talk about it being important that we take care of ourselves here in Hawaii, because nobody else is going to worry about us. In a world of declining energy, the pie is getting smaller and everybody is jockeying and fighting for a smaller piece of pie. This is when you get discontent. Look, for instance, at the current presidential election.

But the solution is not fighting with each other like what’s going on right now.  The solution is helping each other.

The bottom line is that in whatever we choose to do, the pluses have to exceed the minuses.

This is why I look at the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as a plus. It supports education, and that helps us develop new technologies. Technology is not energy, but it helps us to extend energy. Also, investment in the TMT is all coming in from foreign dollars, instead of us taxing ourselves. All pluses.

Another thing we have that’s clearly a plus in terms of energy is geothermal. We will be over the “hotspot” that provides us with geothermal energy for 500,000 to a million years. That isn’t going away. A huge plus.

And GMOs are a plus because they help us find different ways to keep feeding ourselves, which of course is critical.

This is what it all boils down to. This is the graph that changed my life.

Hawaii Energy

I first saw it during the 2007 Association for the Study of Peak Oil conference in Houston. It shows, simply, that we have been using much more oil than we’ve been finding.

Obviously there will be consequences if we don’t either:

  • conserve what oil we have
  • find affordable alternatives
  • or use technology to extend what energy we have.

It takes energy to do work and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measurement of work, so this graph implies the world GDP may be challenged if we don’t find alternatives.

It was clear to me that this was going to be the biggest challenge facing Hawai‘i.

I continued studying this and also attended four more ASPO conferences. And I realized I was the only person from the state of Hawai‘i that was attending these conferences and hearing all these experts, and Hawaii energy became my kuleana. It’s not that I wanted it or needed it; I just felt stuck with the knowledge and knew I had to do something with it.

My friend, Professor Charles A.S. Hall, who is known as the father of Energy Return On Investment (EROI), was someone I found clear and easy to understand.

Hawaii energy

What it’s about and what we can do

I am going to revisit a lot of what I’ve learned since I started studying about this problem in 2007, and write about it here. For example, it takes energy to get energy (for example, to get oil up out of the ground) and net energy is decreasing as we use increased amounts of energy to access more difficult sources.

Is it surprising that World GDP is lessening? Not many of our leaders seem to be paying attention to these things.

So to get back to my question above: What changes can we make? What can we do to make things better for all of us?

People have ideas, and I’m going to write some posts about what makes sense to me (and others). Stay tuned.

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Pro TMT: Didn’t Just Fall Off the Tomato Truck

Through their former attorney Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, some of those who feel the Thirty Meter Telescope should not be built atop Mauna Kea suggest I helped form the pro TMT group PUEO, short for Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities, on the spot – that we just popped up out of nowhere.

You can read that in this Civil Beat article about the TMT Contested Case Hearing, which starts Tuesday.

From Civil Beat:

Apart from the TMT itself, the only intervenor that has taken a stance in favor of the TMT’s construction is a group calling itself PUEO, short for Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities, Inc. As described in its petition for standing, PUEO’s purposes “include furthering ‘educational opportunities for the children of Hawaii in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.’ Its board members and beneficiaries include native Hawaiians that reside in the Keaukaha-Panaewa Hawaiian Homesteads located in Hilo, Hawaii. PUEO’s board members include native Hawaiians who seek knowledge and understanding and exercise customary and traditional native Hawaiian rights on Mauna Kea.”

The original petitioners have objected strenuously to PUEO’s admission as an intervenor. In a memorandum opposing Amano’s decision to admit PUEO, the original petitioners’ attorney, Wurdeman, claims that PUEO was formed for the sole purpose of intervening in the case.

“[G]iven the timing of its formation, the P.U.E.O., Inc., was obviously formed solely to try and participate in the contested case hearing and the Petitioners submit that such an attempt is clearly improper,” Wurdeman wrote.

The Reality

The truth, of course, is that I have been a very vocal supporter of the Thirty Meter Telescope for many years.

For years I’ve written at my blog and elsewhere about the Adopt-A-Class program. We formed that program to help kids in schools that cannot afford field trips. The program, which expanded after awhile to cover every class on the Big Island, paid for buses and admission to send students to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center once a year, where they learned about the world-class science on Mauna Kea as well as our traditional Hawaiian culture. My first of many posts about Adopt-A-Class was nine years ago, in 2007:

My friend Duane Kanuha and I have this big idea, and we’re asking for your help: We want to send Keaukaha students on excursions that broaden their horizons and help them develop excitement for learning and positive attitudes about their place in the world. It’s my opinion that if Hawaiian kids are comfortable with their place in the world, they will not hesitate to participate in that world.

I’m specifically thinking about excursions to Hilo’s new astronomy center ‘Imiloa. ‘Imiloa is particularly powerful because it situates the Hawaiian culture and scientific knowledge in parity with the highest level of astronomy. It is a “discovery center” that celebrates both science (the world-class astronomy atop nearby Mauna Kea) and Hawaiian culture (including the marvels of traditional Hawaiian voyaging, navigation and much more).

It’s a place where Hawaiian kids see that there are careers and avocations directly related to their culture, and that these cultural traditions are important enough that they are celebrated in a world-class museum. And that the people pursuing these careers and passions are people who look just like them and their families.

I’ve written about Kumu Lehua Veincent asking me “What about the rest?” (of the students) since at least 2009, and many times since:

What I keep coming back to again and again is what Kumu Lehua Veincent told me the first time I asked him what the TMT should offer the Big Island as an introductory, good faith gift. I asked him if it would be appropriate to ask for “full ride” scholarships for at least five native Hawaiians to attend the best colleges in the nation.

He asked me, in a very sincere way, “And what about the rest?”

I felt so stupid that I could feel my ears getting hot.

That is the essential question: “What about the rest?” This is about the keiki, the future generations—all of them.

Three years later, University of Hawai‘i President McClain has announced that if the TMT comes to Hawai‘i, in addition to its other negotiations there will be an annual, $1 million benefit package for education emphasizing K-12. It will be effective for the life of the project—50 years—and will begin as soon as all the permits are in place.

It will be set up to address Kumu Lehua’s question: “What about the rest?”

The Process

The first time I wrote about Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, and what I learned from him about how important the process is as we talk about TMT, was also in 2009:

We talked story in the community a lot, and over and over we heard from Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, President of the Keaukaha Community Association, that the most important thing was “the process.”

And as we thought about this, we realized that if the process is most important, then all contributors to the process, no matter what side of the issue they are on, made for a better product. And so we always need to aloha the loud voices, too, who early on told us that things were not quite right. It was about us. All of us. Not me against you.

So when we had our first sign waving in support of the TMT, nearly 150 people showed up. We told everyone that we were meeting to celebrate the process and told them to bring their kids, and they did. It was very significant.

I also wrote about it six years ago in this 2010 post:

As we went around visiting people, Patrick Kahawaiola‘a,
 president of the Keaukaha Community Association, told me that it’s about “the 
process.” And since the process would result in the best possible result, we
 need to aloha everyone who participates in the process, no matter which side of 
the issue they are on. Therefore, we must mahalo Kealoha, Nelson, Debbie, Paul,
 Ku, Hanalei, the Kanaka Council, Jim, Cory, Moani and many others. We would not 
be here today had it not been for their passionate advocacy.

The whole state has noticed that we on the Big Island are
 doing this differently. Our approach is based on mutual respect, collaboration 
and trust. The TMT folks, led by Henry Yang, did it the right way. It
 would not have worked any other way.

And I’ve been writing about the TMT’s money for education, which became the THINK Fund, many times since 2009:

If we teach our keiki the values they need to make a society that is successful and thriving “when the boat no come,” we will have done our jobs. This $1 million that will be dedicated to keiki education annually is key to the survival of future generations. It is no longer about us – it is about the future generations.

We must learn and perpetuate what it was that allowed Hawaiians to survive for hundreds of years out in the middle of the ocean without boats coming in every day with goods from someplace else.

In the future, our values will need to revolve around aloha. We will need to assume responsibility—kuleana. We need to make more friends and stay closer to our families.

We live in the modern world, so how do we use what we have and meld it with the values that worked? We need to have a balance of science and culture in order for all of us to do what we do to help our greater society.

My Pop told me: “There are a thousand reasons why ‘No can.’ I only looking for one reason why ‘Can.’”

What it really all boils down to, as I wrote above, is the process. In the last six years or more, I’ve spoken and written about how it’s all about the process many, many times. If the process is pono, and we aloha everyone on all sides of the issue, then we’re good.

Let’s proceed with the process.

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Hawaii Robotics: ‘Kids Don’t Want To Go Home!’

Art Kimura, who’s been called Hawai‘i’s “Father of Robotics,” has a lot of enthusiasm for promoting Hawaii Robotics programs in our schools.

We talked to him about what sorts of careers Robotics sometimes leads children toward, the exciting state and world championships the kids compete in, and what’s going on with access to the programs.

This is the second part of a two-part series on the subject. Read Part 1 here.

Q. What do children learn from Robotics, and what sort of careers are those skills useful in?

Art Kimura: It definitely leans toward engineering and computer science. Those are the two high-level occupations that we’ve seen many kids strive for as a result of Robotics. I think one real strong piece of evidence, although it’s never been studied well enough to say this is definitely it, is that the University of Hawai‘i College of Engineering enrollment has nearly doubled since Robotics started.

Nobody’s done a study on it but we kind of see the linkage because if you interview the students there, many of them say, “Yeah, I was on this Robotics team or that Robotics team.”

It’s also well documented that many girls will say, “I’m an engineer because of Robotics.” In other words, they never thought of it until they joined the Robotics team and then the light bulb went on. “Hey, I can do this.”

Tell me about the Pan Pacific VEX Championships that were just held here.

We were in the Kamehameha Schools gym and we had 88 teams playing and hundreds of parents and other supporters. It was an awesome ‘ohana of Kamehameha faculty and students who provided the venue and services, from the opening 60-plus dancers who showcased Hawai‘i’s culture to the concluding final matches on Sunday.

Hawaii robotics

The place was so loud with the parents cheering and the music blaring out and excited MCs calling the matches, students dancing in the stands. You could hardly hear each other talking, even if you were sitting next to each other. It was just like a sporting event.

Is it an annual championship?

We used to have it annually and then we stopped for a couple of years for different reasons. The reason this was reignited is we had a discussion at Hawaiian Electric Company.

Hawaiian Electric has a partnership with Okinawa Enetech, which is the utility on Okinawa. They’re trying to learn from each other. The Okinawans were interested in what Hawai‘i Electric does in Hawai‘i in terms of STEM education.

Hawai‘i Electric has been long-time supporters of STEM education. They give money to support science fairs, they give money for many different causes in terms of STEM, and they’ve become a strong supporter of Robotics. Twenty years ago, they supported Waialua and they’re still supporting them today. They’re our title sponsor of our state VEX championship, so they have contributed not only funds but their volunteers also come out and support the tournament.

In that discussion we had with Hawaiian Electric, and because of their partnership with Okinawa Enetech, we thought we would bring back the Pan Pacific Championship as a means of trying to get this tournament held not only in Hawai‘i but also in other countries. The vision is this tournament that we just hosted will rotate to other countries, like an Olympic-style event, where it could be in China or it could be in Taiwan (but all in the Pacific Rim because that’s what our focus is).

By having teams come here, our kids can participate in an international competition and see how they measure up. A few years ago when we hosted it at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, we grew the tournament into the second largest tournament in the world. One hundred and twelve teams. We still consistently get 20 teams from China coming to that. China has thousands of VEX Robotics teams, probably approaching 5 or 6 thousand now.

Hawaii robotics

We have some sub-issues going on where we’re hoping this tournament will catalyze Okinawa. Right now, Okinawa has no VEX Robotics program because they have their own program. We’re trying to see if we can get into their system with this program and sort of selfishly, we would like our teachers here, who are really experts in this area, to be the trainers; to send them there to train the Okinawans.

We also had representatives from three Department of Defense schools, from Korea and Okinawa, at our tournament to see whether they can include that in the Department of Defense schools in Korea, Japan, the Philippines and other entities around the Pacific. Again, with our goal being our teachers will become the trainers.

We work very closely with the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. They’re a non-profit and they organize all these VEX tournaments worldwide. Their president was the one who helped start our program back 20 years ago. He brought his team to Hawai‘i and helped us start.

Anyway, he offered us two world championship slots for our Pan Pacific Championship, so two teams would qualify for next April’s World VEX Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. We’re first in the world to qualify two teams.

Has Hawai‘i Robotics gone to the world championships before?

We went to that championship this past year with 31 of our Hawai‘i teams and it was absolutely amazing. The facility’s so large. Literally, I was walking 10 to 12 miles a day inside the building just to go visit the teams.

There will be probably about 25,000 people cheering on the kids next year and probably 1,000 teams competing from all over the world.

How did Hawai‘i do last year?

We do really well, but we don’t win the championship. It’s just difficult to get to that level, but our teams win trophies, they finish high. We’re proud of them when they do that. Several came home with trophies.

What’s coming up this year?

This year we have two different games. One game is called Starstruck. It’s a fun game where these stars get thrown back and forth across the field, these bean bags get thrown back and forth, and at the end of the game the robot climbs a pole.

The state high school championship, for the very first time, is going to be held here on the Big Island on January 5th at Kea‘au High School. It’s the start of some two dozen more IQ and VRC Robotics tournaments statewide. The VEX middle school state championship will be held at the new Stevenson Middle School STEM center on January 7, and the VEX IQ state championships for elementary and middle school will be held February 20 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.

Robotics is something you don’t get until you see it, really. You don’t feel what the kids feel until you actually go to a tournament and see the excitement.

It’s really exciting. It’s the value of having fun while you’re learning. And when you ask the kids what they like about it, they come up with all kind of different reasons about what it’s teaching them.

What are the challenges?

One of our big challenges right now is access. Less than five percent of kids in Hawai‘i have access to participating on a Robotics team.

Representative Mark Nakashima really helped us this past year with legislation he got passed by the legislature. Several years ago, he sent money to the Department of Labor and initially they focused on things like agriculture. This past year, the Labor people contacted us about IT. In other words, how do you get more kids interested in IT kind of stuff?

We got access to that funding, and because of that we were able to increase statewide participation in VEX IQ 55 percent in a single year.

That kind of infusion of money really helps because I can go to a school and say, find me a mentor and we’ll provide all the resources for you.

It’s not a huge investment. Offering Konawaena Elementary three Robotics kits and a game field, the value is probably about $1,700. We’ve got 55 kids involved there. And everything is reusable except the new game, because every April a new game is announced. As far as the kit, though, you can use it year after year. Once you get the initial parts in the schools, they can sustain it on their own.

Why should people encourage their kids to get involved with Robotics?

It goes back to having kids learning life skills through this process. I think it’s a wonderful way – it engages them and it’s real to the students.

One major complaint I get from teachers about Robotics all the time is the kids don’t want to go home. It motivates them to do something on their own. It’s nothing that they’re forced to do and they don’t get graded on it. They do it as a club activity most of the time.

You never know, the experience could change their life. They never thought of engineering, they never thought of programming, but all of the sudden, the light bulb goes on and there it is.

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Hawaii Robotics Teaches More Than Just Building Robots

Hawaii robotics enthusiast Art Kimura is the “Father of Robotics” in Hawai‘i. More officially, he’s Education Specialist at the University of Hawai‘i’s Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium.

Hundreds of Big Island children, from elementary through high school, participate in Robotics. We talked to him about what exactly Robotics is, how it got started in Hawai‘i, and all the skills – some of them rather unexpected – that children learn from participating.

This is the first post of a two-part series.

Hamakua Springs: How would you describe Robotics to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

Art Kimura: When I talk to parents, I talk more about Robotics as a tool to teach students life skills. The life skills we try to impart are team work, problem solving, time management, communication and integrity.

To me, those are the most important things to get out of Robotics because they are applicable whether you become an engineer or in any other job you pursue in the future.

Robotics has grown enormously over the last 20 years because of two factors: First, the planners took advantage of what society values. What does society value the most, that gets the most media attention, gets the most money? It’s sports and entertainment. Robotics took advantage of that. It created sports-like games and at the tournaments they play music and have loud MCs.

And I really think Robotics is a social experience as well. Parents often ask me, “What kind of kit should I buy?” I tell them, “Don’t buy a Robotics kit for your child because they’ll get bored with it at home by themself.” It really is a social experience where having a group of people who can work together seems to energize them.

How long have you been involved with Robotics?

The origin was a meeting in Hilo, just sort of a chance meeting when what’s now known as the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center was being conceived of. Because it was Senator Inouye’s money that was being sent through NASA, NASA sent a representative to the first meeting. I was walking around with my plate looking for some place to sit and there was a man sitting by himself. I sat down with him.

Turned out that he was an engineer from NASA who headed the National Robotics Alliance, and he started to tell me about the programs he was helping to run in the San Jose, San Francisco area. He gave me chicken skin because he was talking about taking gang kids off the street and turning them into kids that would go to UC Berkeley and other colleges.

At the time, we didn’t have any formal scholastic Robotics in Hawai‘i. He had come to Hawai‘i with a scholarship to fund one team to participate in a program called FIRST Robotics, and the value was about $4,000. He had offered the scholarship to the DOE, who would be assigning it to a school. Turns out that school became Waialua High School. They have one of the premier Robotics programs in the world right now – not just in Hawai‘i or the nation, but in the world.

Tell me more about what’s happening there at Waialua on O’ahu.

It’s Waialua High and Intermediate, a grade 8-12 school. They’re just an amazing operation in a small sugar plantation town, a lot of immigrant kids, and yet because of the vision of a teacher out there, over the past 20 years it’s grown into a program where they’re in the so-called Robotics Hall of Fame. They travel extensively to the Mainland. They went to China and Korea this year and they’re going to Japan next year.

Is Robotics as big in the rest of Hawai‘i?

In Hawai‘i, our history is that we were able to grow things very rapidly, to a very high level. But because our population is limited, then eventually we get outpaced.

For example, there’s a program I brought to Hawai‘i called Botball. It’s probably one of the hardest programs because the kids have to program the robot, build the robot and then program it to operate autonomously during the entire match. There’s no human control, so it’s high-level programming that they have to learn. It’s a pretty expensive program.

We grew it in Hawai‘i to the largest in the world. At one time there were 42 teams. In the world there were like 300, and we had 42 of them. We were bigger than New York or California. Twice we hosted the world championship in Hawai‘i because we had so many teams.

Botball has kind of tapered down now to maybe only 10 teams, though, because of the cost. I think even more than the cost is the difficulty of doing it. You need to find a mentor that can teach kids how to program at very high levels.

How many kids are involved with Robotics on the Big Island?

I’m just guessing, but I would say about 700 to 800 kids in elementary, middle  and high school, both boys and girls. We have some all-girl teams. There’s a Girl Scout team in Kea‘au that has three teams right now. It’s Troop 254.

Is there a certain type of child who is especially interested in Robotics, or does very well in Robotics?

I think it takes different types of people to have a successful team. You have some that like to do the mechanical part of building, and you have some that focus on the programming side. You need the cheerleader type. There are some kids on the team, they just want to belong to an organization but they’re not athletes, and so they join the team and they become the rah-rah people. They organize different aspects of it, like the documentation. There’s room for everybody on a team, depending on how the team is organized.

What are the other Robotics programs here in Hawai‘i?

There are nine programs right now. We have a program called FIRST LEGO League, a very big program. That’s an elementary and middle school program and it’s well-known at many schools. I think they must have about 140 or 150 teams in Hawai‘i.

There’s also FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST. FIRST Tech Challenge is for middle and high school kids

FIRST is a large robot that the kids build from scratch, about 125 pounds, and they play in a sporting-like environment. The name FIRST stands for “For Inspiration of Science and Technology” and it’s a well-known program nationally. We have about 27 teams in Hawai‘i that play in that program. It’s very expensive. The entry fee alone is about $6000. The initial outlay is about $10,000 per team. But the kids learn a lot.

Where does that money come from?

They fundraise. Waialua is a good example. The reason I send a lot of people out there to visit is that yeah, they make good robots, but their business plan is just amazing. They raise about $150,000, $160,000 a year to support their program. It’s just a well-orchestrated business plan – how to solicit sponsors, and more importantly, how to retain a sponsor.

So they are learning incredible business skills, too.

Yes. Out of maybe 35 kids, probably only 10 build robots. The others are doing media things. They maintain the website, they document everything. They’re trained in how to solicit sponsors, to thank sponsors for their sponsorship level. It not only sustains itself but increases oftentimes. They write grants. It’s just an amazing operation they have out there.

Are any Big Island schools operating at that level?

They can’t match that here. It’s because of the way the lead teacher at Waialua organized it. He sees the bigger picture.

Most of our schools in Hawai‘i struggle financially and not only that, they also have limited space. If they are able to get a room, they’re lucky. Most of them are working out of part of a classroom. Waialua has six rooms dedicated just for Robotics. It’s because, again, the vision is much broader.

It sounds like we need more of that vision here on the Big Island.

Absolutely, yeah. It’s difficult because teachers are so busy in their day-to-day work that to come up with what Waialua is doing is very difficult. You have to be kind of a skilled grant writer, but it’s possible.

To me, that’s the high bar. You always want to look at that, even if you can’t replicate it identically. There are parts of it I think we can all learn from.

What are the other Robotics programs?

There are two versions of underwater Robotics in Hawai‘i. They run them in swimming pools. Good program, not very big. Primarily, I think, because from the audience side, it’s difficult to get people excited because it’s hard to imagine what’s going on underwater.

I focus more on a program called VEX Robotics because, to me, it’s much more sustainable and expandable. That’s the one we just had the tournament for in Honolulu.

We have over 300 VEX Robotics teams now in Hawai‘i. We’re in about 35 percent of the schools. On the Big Island alone we have 53 teams, so we have one-fourth of the total participants in the state right now. It’s grown enormously on this island.

What are the challenges with Robotics?

Part of the big challenge in Robotics for several years has been access. There are so many kids that are interested but because of various reasons, the opportunity to participate is very limited. A school can say, We have a Robotics program. When you ask, Well, how many kids? They say, Well, we have a FIRST LEGO League team – which is limited to 10 kids.

That means it could be 10 kids out of 500, and usually the school will go through a selection process. My concern always is the average student often is left out because they take the gifted and talented to represent the school.

With IQ (one of the VEX programs) what’s good is there’s no limit on the number of students or the number of teams you can have per school. Some schools have six teams and they may have 20 or 30 kids registered. I was at Konawaena Elementary two weeks ago to visit, and I was really stunned because there were like 55 kids there with six teachers. It’s very unusual for that many teachers to be involved. It’s amazing.

The demand is there and access is what we’re trying to deal with.

Part 2: ‘Kids Don’t Want To Go Home!’

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Declining Energy Continues, is Significant

Above all the local Hawaii issues, we still have the worldwide consequences of declining energy resources. The Bakken Field situation is nothing new — it’s something I’ve been well aware of over the years as I attended five Association for the Study of Peak Oil  conferences.

From Charles Hall, who is a world-renowned systems  ecologist:

The Death of the Bakken Field has Begun: Means Big Trouble For The U.S.

The Death of the Great Bakken Oil Field has begun and very few Americans understand the significance.  Just a few years ago, the U.S. Energy Industry and Mainstream media were gloating that the United States was on its way to “Energy Independence.”

Unfortunately for most Americans, they believed the hype and are now back to driving BIG SUV’s and trucks that get lousy fuel mileage.  And why not?  Americans now think the price of gasoline will continue to decline because the U.S. oil industry is able to produce its “supposed” massive shale oil reserves for a fraction of the cost, due to the new wonders of technological improvement.

I actually hear this all the time when I travel and talk to family, friends and strangers.  I gather they have no clue that the Great Bakken Oil Field is now down a stunning 25% from its peak in just a little more than a year and half ago:

bakken-field-oil-production-sept-2016

The mighty Bakken oil field located in North Dakota reached peak production in December 2014 at 1.26 million barrels per day (mbd) and is now down to 942,000 bd.  This decline is no surprise to me or to my readers who have been following my work for the past several years.

I wrote about the upcoming crash of the Bakken oil field in my article (click on image to read article)– Published, NOV. 2013:

the-coming-bust-of-the-great-bakken-oil-field

I ended the article with these sobering words:

There are only so many drilling locations available and once they run out, the Great Bakken Field will become a BUST as the high decline rates will push overall oil production down the very same way it came up.

Those who moved to the frigid state of North Dakota with Dollar signs in their eyes and images of sugar-plums dancing in their heads will realize firsthand the negative ramifications of all BOOM & BUST cycles.

Well, the Bust of North Dakota economy has arrived and according to the article, “The North Dakota Great Recession“:

Unfortunately by April 2015 it was clear that the oil markets were in a secular decline brought on by oversupply in the global energy markets fueled by a deep recession in China. As a result, companies started to lay off workers, and over the following months caused a massive exodus of people as jobs were eliminated. Nobody is exactly sure how many people have left the state, but some put estimates as high as 25,000.

The strongest real estate market continues to be Watford City with the weakest in Minot. However, even in Watford City the price of a three-bedroom rental home has come down from $2,500 in 2015 to a current price of $1,400. This represents a 44 percent decline of the rental price in the market.

Some folks believe the reason for the decline in oil production at the Bakken was due to low oil prices.  While this was part of the reason,the Bakken was going to peak and decline in 2016-2017 regardless of the price.  This was forecasted by peak oil analyst Jean Laherrere.  I wrote about this in my article below (click on image to read article)– Published, APRIL 2015:

what-will-the-death-of-the-great-bakken-look-like

I took Jean Laherrere’s chart and placed it next to the current actual Bakken oil field production:

bakken-oil-decline-vs-jean-laherrere-forecast

As we can see in the chart above, the rise and fall of Bakken oil production is very close to what Jean Laherrere forecasted several years ago (shown by the red arrow).  According to Laherrere’s chart, the Bakken will be producing a lot less oil by 2020 and very little by 2025.  This would also be true for the Eagle Ford Field in Texas.

According to the most recent EIA Drilling Productivity Report, the Eagle Ford Shale Oil Field in Texas will be producing an estimated 1,026,000 barrels of oil per day in September, down from a peak of 1,708,000 barrels per day in May 2015.  Thus, Eagle Ford oil production is slated to be down a stunning 40% since its peak last year.

texas-eagle-ford-oil-production-sept-2016

Do you folks see the writing on the wall here?  The Bakken down 25% and the Eagle Ford down 40%.  These are not subtle declines.  This is much quicker than the U.S. Oil Industry or the Mainstream Media realize.

And… it’s much worse than that.

The U.S. Oil Industry Hasn’t Made a RED CENT Producing Shale

Rune Likvern of Fractional Flow has done a wonderful job providing data on the Bakken Shale Oil Field.  Here is his excellent chart showing the cumulative FREE CASH FLOW from producing oil in the Bakken:

bakken-cumulative-negative-free-cash-flow-likvern

I will simply this chart by explaining that the BLACK BARS are estimates of the monthly Free Cash flow from producing oil in the Bakken since 2009, while the RED AREA is the cumulative negative free cash flow.  As we can see there are very few black bars that are positive.  Most are negative, heading lower.

Furthermore, the red area shows that the approximate negative free cash flow (deducting CAPEX- capital expenditures) is $32 billion.  So, with all the effort and high oil prices from 2011-2014 (first half of 2014), the energy companies producing shale oil in the Bakken are in the hole for $32 billion.  Well done…. hat’s off to the new wonderful fracking technology.

According to Rune Likvern in his article on the Bakken, he stated the following:

Just to retire estimated total debts (about $36 Billion, including costs for DUCs, SDWs, excluding hedges and income/loss of natural gas and NGLs) would require about 7 years with extraction and prices at Jun-16 levels.

Nominally to retire all debts (reach payout) would take an (average) future oil price close to $65/bo (WTI) for all the wells in operation as of end June – 16. This is without making any profit.

For the wells in production as per Jun-16, the total extraction of these will decline about 40% by Jun-17, and depletes their remaining reserves with about 20%. By assuming the operations remain cash flow neutral, total debt remains at $36 B in Jun-17.

As from Jul-17 this would now require an average oil price of about $73/bo (WTI) for these wells to nominally retire all debts (reach payout). Additional wells will add to what price is required to retire the total debt.

What Rune is stating here is that the $36 billion in total cumulative debt will occur by June 2017.  Thus, it would take an average $65 a barrel to just pay back  the debt in seven years.  With the way things are going in the U.S. and world economies, I doubt we are going to see much higher oil prices.

Furthermore, the work by Louis Arnoux and the Hills Group suggest the price of oil will fall, not rise due to a Thermodynamic Collapse.  More about this in an upcoming interview.

The United States Is In Big Trouble & Most Americans Have No Clue

As I have been documenting in previous articles (going back until 2013) the U.S. Shale Oil Industry was a house-of-cards.  Readers who have been following my work, based on intelligent work of others, understood that Shale Oil is just another Ponzi Scheme in a long list of Ponzi Schemes.

From time to time, I look around different websites that publish my work and read some of the comments.  I am surprised how many individuals still don’t believe in Peak Oil even though I explained the Falling EROI – Energy Returned On Investment quite clearly.

For some strange reason, some individuals cannot use deductive reasoning to destroy lousy conspiracy theories.  Moreover, if they do believe in Peak Oil, then they think there is a wonderful “Silver-Bullet Energy Technology” that will save us all.  I gather they believe this because the REALITY and IMPLICATIONS of Peak Oil are just too horrible, to say the least.  So, holding onto HOPE that something will save us, just in the nick of time, is better than accepting the awful reality heading our way.

And the awful reality of Peak Oil will be felt more by Americans as their lifestyles have been highly elevated by the ability to extract wealth and resources from other countries through the issuing of massive amounts of paper Dollars and debt.  Basically, they work, and we eat.

Unfortunately, the propping up of the U.S. market by the Fed and the domestic shale energy Ponzi scheme is running out of time.  This is why it is imperative for investors to start moving out of Bonds, Stocks and Real Estate and into physical gold and silver to protect wealth.

For the wealthy investor or institution that believe a 5-10% allocation in physical gold is good insurance, you are sadly mistaken.  While Donald Trump is receiving more support from Americans in his Presidential race, his campaign motto that he will “Make American Strong Again”, will never happen.  The America we once knew is over.  There just isn’t the available High EROI – Energy Returned On Investment energy supplies to allow us to continue the same lifestyle we enjoyed in the past.

So, now we have to transition to a different more local or regional way of living.  This new living arrangement will be based on capital that is “STORED ECONOMIC ENERGY or WEALTH.”  This can only come via the best sources such as physical gold and silver.

If individuals and countries have been acquiring physical gold and silver, they will be in better shape and will be able to enjoy more options than those who have been selling their gold and accumulating lots of debt and derivatives.

Check back for new articles and updates at the SRSrocco Report.  You can also follow us at Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

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Why Jennifer Doudna Has Trouble Sleeping

In my last post, Hilo High Grad Makes Crispr ‘Discovery Of The Century,’ I wrote about the amazing Dr. Jennifer Doudna and her CRISPr gene-editing technology, which is taking the science world by storm.

I also wrote that it can be controversial. Today I want to share an article by Dr. Doudna, one of CRISPr’s discoverers. She wrote this article for Nature, the international weekly journal of science. It’s about her concerns over the philosophical and ethical ramifications of genomes that are easily-altered.

From Nature.com:

Genome-editing revolution: My whirlwind year with CRISPR, by Jennifer Doudna

22 December 2015

Some 20 months ago, I started having trouble sleeping. It had been almost two years since my colleagues and I had published a paper describing how a bacterial system called CRISPR–Cas9 could be used to engineer genomes (see ‘Based on bacteria’).

I had been astounded at how quickly labs around the world had adopted the technology for applications across biology, from modifying plants to altering butterfly-wing patterns to fine-tuning rat models of human disease. At the same time, I’d avoided thinking too much about the philosophical and ethical ramifications of widely accessible tools for altering genomes.

Questions about whether genome editing should ever be used for non-medical enhancement, for example, seemed mired in subjectivity — a long way from the evidence-based work I am comfortable with. I told myself that bioethicists were better positioned to take the lead on such issues. Like everyone else, I wanted to get on with the science made possible by the technology….

 Read the rest

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