Category Archives: Education

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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IfA Director Insists on Strong Hilo Astronomy Program

Guenther Hasinger, director of the Institute for Astronomy (IfA), really impresses me.

I first met him when I sat on the selection committee for the new IfA director. On that committee, I was looking for someone who would understand us here on the Big Island, and who would advocate for the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo astronomy department.

Hasinger just announced that undergraduate students at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (UHH) will get viewing time at Mauna Kea observatories for the first time, up to 16 nights per year.

You can read more about this in Saturday’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

Guenther Hasinger, IfA director, said it’s unusual for an undergraduate astronomy program to be granted dedicated viewing time. Typically, observing time is reserved based solely on the caliber of research.

But few programs sit at the bottom of one of the world’s top telescope sites.

“From my point of view, it is absolutely necessary to have a very strong astronomy program in Hilo,” Hasinger said.

“We want to ground the telescopes in the community.”

Read the rest

Accomplishments

He impresses me for several reasons.

First of all, he was scientific director at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics near Munich, and received numerous awards for his research and contributions to space science. These include Germany’s most significant research prize and the international Committee on Space Research award.

Also, he wrote a book called Das Schicksal des Universums (Fate of the Universe), which explains astrophysics and cosmology to a wide audience. It won the Science Book of the Year award in Germany and was popular in Europe. I asked him how he did it. How does an astronomer write a book that’s popular with the general public? He told me he can relate to the average person. Right there I thought, “This is the guy for the IfA.”

And furthermore, before he applied for the IfA position, he went to a ceremony at Halema‘uma‘u to show respect. He didn’t talk about it in his official presentation; we had to drag it out of him.

Historically, the IfA is O‘ahu-centric. And here on the Big Island, we’ve always had to fight for anything we get. With Dr. Hasinger, we have someone who is respectful of the Big Island.

Hasinger advocates for growing the UH-Hilo Astronomy department.

“From my point of view, it is absolutely necessary to have a very strong astronomy program in Hilo,” he said in the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald article.

Read the University of Hawai‘i Memo of Understanding about this change here:

Memo of Understanding

 

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DOT Turns Over Palekai to Youth Education Group

On Monday, the Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation signed over about four acres of land at Keaukaha’s Palekai, formerly known as Radio Bay, to the non-profit group Keaukaha One Youth Development.

Palekai

The 12-month revocable permit will allow Keahi Warfield and others in the community, including Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, president of the Keaukaha Community Association, to spearhead a community project to restore the double-hulled navigating canoe Hokualaka‘i.

Palekai

The terms of the revokable permit are for twelve months, and then the Harbors Divison has the option to extend for an additional 30 calendar days. Extensions beyond the 30 days will require Land Board Approval.

It was a beautiful, breezy sunny day when the signing ceremony took place, outside next to the bay. Hokualaka‘i was on one side of the gathering and Mauna Kea was a backdrop across the bay on the other. Community members, legislators and employees from the Department of Transportation were present.

signing2

Keahi Warfield, who runs a children’s after-school program there on the site, said Keaukaha is an ocean community, and the purpose of the non-profit is to ensure children understand ocean activities.

Hawai‘i State Senator Lorraine Inouye spoke about the transfer of Palekai being unusual and a special day for the community.

signing1

“Rarely do you see this kind of transfer happen between the state and a community,” she said. “It’s nice to know agencies and the state respond to a community’s request.”

patrick kahawaiolaa

Kahawaiola‘a spoke too, calling it a momentous occasion and a first. “We will have to live up to the example so more partnerships like this can be made throughout the State.”

They will, he said. “We are fierce Keaukaha people. We will work hard and we will show you what we can do.”

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Big Island Education: How to Help Our Children Soar

Are you interested in Big Island education and helping our children? This note from Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities, Inc (PUEO) shows you how to help:

Mahalo for all of your support.  We had a great turnout at the Contested Case hearing in Hilo last Friday.  However, you should know PUEO is more than just a participant in the Contested Case.  We are a IRC 501(c)(3) non-profit actively engaged with our community in providing educational opportunities for our children. We already have started our programs and there are more in the works.  For more information, check out our website www.alohapueo.org

If you click on Support Us, you will see that you can order tee-shirts and make a donation.  If you received a tee shirt from us last week, you may want to consider making a small donation via paypal to cover the costs.  The actual cost of our first run of shirts was $15. Of course if you would like to donate more, we would be 😁!

Please tell your friends about PUEO!  Please volunteer.  We could use support in programs for all of our children.  Mahalo & Aloha!

PERPETUATING UNIQUE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES, INC.

“Let our children soar!”

Connect with us

Stay tuned with our website:  www.alohapueo.org

Like us on facebook:   PUEO

Follow us on Twitter:     @alohapueo  #alohapueo

email us:  infopueo@gmail.com

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Why Are Robots Assembling on Hawaii Island?

For the first time, the State Championship event for Hawai‘i high school VEX robotics will be held on the Big Island.

The championship event in January 2017, which, appropriately for the astronomy-oriented Big Island, is called “Starstruck,” will host 30 to 36 high school VEX robotics teams from throughout the state. Winning teams from the State Championship event will qualify for the World VEX Championship games, to be held in April 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Last year, 31 Hawai‘i robotics teams participated at the World Championship, including eight middle and high school VEX teams. Kohala High School won the Judges Award. Twenty three VEX IQ elementary and middle school teams participated last year, including Kea‘au Elementary School.

Teams are already designing and programming robots to meet the 2017 games challenges. Schools interested in joining VEX VRC or IQ should email Art Kimura, Education Specialist at UH Manoa’s Hawai’i Space Grant Consortium, as soon as possible.

Volunteers are needed for the January 6th championship event. Organizations and individuals are needed for judging, refereeing, scorekeeping, announcing and queuing. To volunteer, contact Art Kimura with your organization affiliation, if any, and t-shirt size. Volunteers receive lunch, drinks and a t-shirt.

To qualify for the State Championships, teams must first qualify in tournaments to be held on Onizuka Science Day (January 28, 2017; volunteers and sponsors are still needed for that day as well). VEX VRC middle and high school qualifying robotics tournaments will be held at Waiakea Intermediate and Kohala High. VEX IQ Crossover elementary and middle school qualifying tournaments will be held at Waiakea Elementary, Kealakehe High School and UH Hilo.

VEX VRC and IQ robotics are the fastest growing robotics programs in the world with more than 16,000 teams. Last year Hawai‘i had 238 teams, and it’s projected to have least 300 in the near future, representing more than 30 percent of the state’s schools. This is due to an infusion of state labor work force development funds, says Kimura, who thanks Representative Mark Nakashima.

“Robotics would not be possible in Hawai‘i without the generous support of the community and the hundreds of volunteers, including team mentors,” says Kimura.

“On the Big Island, the early and continuous support of the Thirty Meter Telescope and Sandra Dawson has increased schools’ and communities’ access to scholastic robotics. Statewide, the Hawaiian Electric Companies and the aio Foundation have generously provided support where we have experienced a 300 percent growth in VEX IQ robotics in just two years. We are one of only ten states to show a +50 team increase in one year, and on a per capita basis, we lead the nation in participation.”

This October, an international robotics competition called the Pan Pacific Championship will be held on O‘ahu. It will include more than 20 teams from China, Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and Canada as well as Hawai‘i.

“We thank the generous support of the Thirty Meter Telescope, the Hawaiian Electric Companies, the County of Hawai‘i (Research and Development), and Kea‘au High School, to make it possible for the Big Island to host the Starstruck State Championship tournament,” says Kimura.

Kimura says if the Mauna Kea Outreach Committee, UH Hilo, or any other Big Island organizations would like to help support the State Championship tournament, they can email him at art@higp.hawaii.edu. Sponsors’ logos will be on the volunteer t-shirts and the championship banners awarded to winning teams. Sponsors are also provided with a sponsor table at the tournament.

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TMT Providing Loads of Classroom & Scholarship Money

I wrote about the THINK Fund back when it was getting started. It’s a grant and scholarship program provided by the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory to prepare Hawai‘i Island students to master science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to become the workforce for higher-paying science and technology jobs in Hawai‘i’s 21st-century economy.

TMT contributes $1 million per year to the scholarship THINK Fund, which is now in its second year. It specifically benefits students only on Hawai‘i Island.

To date, more than 8,000 students and 150 teachers on Hawai‘i Island have been directly involved in a project supported by the THINK Fund  at HCF – and it’s only been 15 months.

THINK stands for “The Hawai‘i Island New Knowledge” Fund, and funds are distributed by the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) and the Pauahi Foundation.

Of TMT’s $1 million annual contribution, $750,000 goes into the THINK Fund at HCF. Part of those funds go towards building a THINK fund endowment at HCF, so STEM learning on this island is supported long into the future.

The THINK Fund at HCF provides two types of grants:

1. Classroom Project Grants,for teachers in the public and charter schools, support STEM learning projects for grades 3-12. Teachers can post about a project for consideration on DonorsChoose.org anytime, and if they meet the criteria it is usually funded within a week or two.

More than $85,000 has gone to STEM classroom project grants since November 2014. Just since the beginning of this 2015-16 school year, 30 teachers have received funding for student learning materials such as National Geographic Space Building and Ocean Building kits, microscopes, laptops, and compasses.

Some other specific STEM classroom projects that have been funded by THINK:

  • Applied Science supplies and kits to the Volcano School of Arts and Science public charter school, grades 3-5
  • What is STEAM & Why My Students Need Your Help Please, to the Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School, grades 3-5
  • Future Health Professional—Providing Hope for the Rural Community, to Ka‘ū High & Pahala Elementary School, grades 9-12
  • Narrow the Achievement Gap in Mathematics, to Konawaena Middle School, grades 6-8

2. STEM Learning Grants, for non-profit organizations and schools, are awarded through an annual application process. The substantial amount of money awarded each year keeps going up.

In 2014, the THINK Fund at HCF gave $200,000 to launch the STEM Learning Grants. So many compelling community requests were received for grants, though, that HCF recruited other organizations to contribute to the funding too, and it received another $300,000.

As a result, in March 2015, $500,000 in STEM Learning Grants were awarded to 23 Hawai‘i Island organizations.

This year, more organizations are contributing to the STEM Learning Grants, the most recent being the Maunakea Observatories. HCF says this year’s goal is to distribute at least $700,000 in grants.

The types of programs funded through the STEM Learning Grants include after-school and intersession programs for students, project-based teams, robotics and student internships, equipment upgrades, STEM curriculum development in local schools, teacher development, mentor training, and STEM professional learning networks.

Twenty-nine applications for this year’s STEM Learning Grants are being reviewed now, and funding will be awarded in late March.

The THINK Fund at HCF also provides college scholarships. In 2015, 24 Hawai‘i Island students received a total of $95,500 in awards ranging from $3-7,500. The students are pursuing 17 different STEM degrees, from aerospace engineering to zoology.

This year’s college scholarships will be announced in May. One hundred thousand dollars worth of awards will be provided to students pursuing undergraduate or graduate level degrees, certificates, or other professional development coursework to become a STEM educator on Hawai‘i Island; or degrees or certificates in STEM-related fields.

Another bonus is that when a student applies to the THINK Fund at HCF scholarships, he or she is also considered for other HCF scholarships (HCF offers more than 200 in total).

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UH Hilo Offering New ‘Energy Science’ Certificate

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will begin offering a certificate in Energy Science in the Fall 2016 semester, pending official approval by the UH Hilo Curriculum Committee, which is expected.

“Energy science is a really critical component of our future,” says Bruce Mathews, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. “It’s tied right in with our local agriculture. Our energy is dependent on outside resources, and nutrients used as fertilizers are derived from outside energy, too. We are so dependent on imported fossil fuel – oil and coal. For us to become self-reliant is extremely critical.”

He says they hope to eventually offer a whole undergraduate degree in Energy Science; currently, there is no such undergraduate program in the U.S.

From the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo:

The conversion of energy to useful forms for humans, its distribution and its impact are among the most pressing issues of our time. They are at the same level as climate change, population growth and social justice. The Certificate in Energy Science provides students with extensive, integrated knowledge about this field – enough to access entry-level jobs. The courses take advantage of the Island of Hawaiʻi’s privileged opportunities in solar, wind, biofuel, tide and geothermal energies, with field trips planned according to the course subject matter.

The management and policy concentration has an emphasis on policy, yet it requires at least two courses with significant technical content. It is intended for students majoring in humanities, social sciences, business and similar fields. It can lead to potential careers in energy policy or management. The technical concentration is a more rigorous program consisting of year-long surveys of energy science and biofuels as well as a laboratory course. This concentration will prepare students for graduate work in the energy field. It is intended for students in the natural sciences or CAFNRM. It will lead to potential careers in technical areas.

The certificate program offers two tracks. The first is for non-science majors and focuses on energy policy.

Mathews talks about what he calls a gap between policy people and science. “If you can get some policy types more informed about energy science, it can better inform policy,” he says. “A lot of people in the college feel that many of our issues in society today come about because policy-trained political scientists and lawyers don’t have a deep enough breadth of knowledge in the sciences to be as effective as they could be when, as politicians, they are making decisions for our future.”

“There’s sort of a postmodern philosophy that has gone beyond the age of reason,” he says. “It’s the idea that ‘Whatever you believe is fine.’ And, ‘If I believe it, then it’s true.’ It’s about belief, rather than judgements that are based on the best evidence, and I think that will be a huge challenge to Hawai‘i as we move forward on energy. For instance, when people believe all geothermal is bad no matter how it’s done. How will be move forward on these resources if people think like that?

“That’s why we wanted to have that part of the curricula open to students who are not of a scientific nature,” he says.

The second Energy Science Certificate track, a more rigorous one, is for people with natural science backgrounds.

He says they are also working on offering Energy Science courses for non-credit through the university’s continuing education program, though that’s not available yet.

While the program officially starts in the fall, two Energy Science courses will be offered this summer.

Hilo Physics Professor Philippe Binder will teach in and has taken the lead on promoting the Energy Science program. Engineering professor Shihwu Sung, whose focus is biomass, was recently hired to teach in the new certificate program. Next, says Mathews, they will hire an assistant professor who focuses on managing energy grid systems and energy efficiency in rural areas.

He says his biggest worry is that students won’t sign up for the program because they are fearful of the science. “Students are coming to college inadequately prepared from high school and I see it all the time when I talk to high school students,” he says; “they have a huge fear of the physical sciences.”

He says, though, that Dr. Binder realizes this and is willing to help. “As long as a student is motivated,” says Mathews, “he’s willing to tutor students and will open up office hours to do this. For this program to be successful, it’s going to take encouragement and intervention. We will also make courses as engaging as possible, with exciting field trips and laboratories. Places like the Natural Energy Lab, HELCO, Pacific Biodiesel, and people in the solar sector have said they will do anything they can to help us with these courses. There’s a lot of support in the Hilo community for this program. We welcome other support from industry, too, in terms of interaction with students, and hiring students as interns.”

“All universities are increasingly having to operate like businesses and try to generate revenue,” he says, “but there are some things the state needs to realize are important to our future. These sorts of programs have to be supported and go forward. When problems arise, it will be more costly if we don’t have people in the state who are trained about our food and energy problems. The nexus of food, water and energy is the core. We need a lot of energy to grow our food, and we can’t grow the food without water. It’s all connected to the future of humanity, and so these are areas that need to be critically protected.”

“We will also miss out on federal grants and such if we don’t have a program in place for them,” he says. “It’s critical for us in securing research money down the road.”

Mathews says an Energy Sciences certificate, which will take two to three semesters to complete, will give a student a leg up in terms of entering the energy sector after college.

“Companies like HELCO and those in the solar industry, for instance, will appreciate someone who has training in energy sciences. It’s a starting point.”

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Richard says he couldn’t be happier that UH Hilo is moving toward a degree in Energy Science, something that is not currently offered anywhere else in the U.S.

“I’m especially interested in this because a group of us are promoting the benefits of an energy utility co-op. Doing work that is effective as well as affordable is most important. It’s all about doing work and it takes energy to do work.”

“I am very pleased to have enabled Nate Hagens to be the program’s first guest speaker,” he says. “I am going to see if we can bring in more world class speakers in the months and years to come.”

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TMT Launches Scholarships, Grant Funds for STEM Students

Richard Ha writes:

This is terrific.

As we’ve been talking about all this time, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) people are giving a million dollars per year for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. That’s more than $50 million altogether through the life of the TMT project, and all that money stays on this island for the education of our Big Island keiki.

They’re calling it the THINK fund: The Hawai‘i Island New Knowledge fund.

I wrote a 2010 blog post that explains how TMT President Henry Yang came to understand that keiki education was the lowest common denominator that folks on all sides of the TMT issue could agree upon. That is what led to the THINK fund.

This fund benefits all Big Island keiki, and all Native Hawaiian students will have an additional opportunity for scholarships and grants, as well.

The details:

TMT Launches The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund

$1 Million Annually to Benefit Hawaii Island Students Pursuing STEM Disciplines

Hilo, Hawaii (November 13, 2014) – The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has launched THINK (The Hawaii Island New Knowledge) Fund to better prepare Hawaii Island students to master STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and to become the workforce for higher paying science and technology jobs in Hawaii’s 21st century economy. TMT’s founding gift of $1 million marks the beginning of the construction phase of astronomy’s next-generation telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

TMT’s THINK Fund initiative benefits Hawaii Island students pursuing STEM endeavors with an annual contribution of $1 million over its existing 19-year Mauna Kea sublease with the University of Hawaii-Hilo. Two Hawaii foundations were selected by TMT, Hawaii Community Foundation and Pauahi Foundation, to administer THINK Fund distribution in scholarship and grant making platforms. The two independent foundations are defining their award criteria and decision-making process.

“During our numerous meetings, TMT and the community discussed how to collaborate to fulfill the shared dream of building the world’s most advanced telescope. The idea for the THINK Fund to invest in the education of students in the STEM field was germinated,” said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board. “With the launch of the THINK Fund, we are embarking on two transformational adventures – exploring the frontiers of the universe and providing educational opportunities for Hawaii’s students, both now and for future generations.”

The Thirty Meter Telescope initiated dialogue on the formation of THINK Fund in 2008 by asking a group of community volunteers to outline the mission, vision, purpose and implementation strategy of an education fund benefitting Hawaii Island students. The Organizing Committee that developed TMT’s THINK Fund structure was comprised of Hawaii Island residents.

“After years of THINK Fund planning and reflection, the aspirations of dedicated community members are being realized with TMT’s first annual $1 million contribution, set in motion by the start of our construction phase,” said TMT Community Affairs Manager Sandra Dawson. “As a mother of two teachers, I am so pleased with the THINK Fund’s potential to furnish Hawaii Island students with an easier path to reach for the stars. TMT’s THINK Fund initiative will not only help Hawaii Island students with the tools to excel in STEM areas and the channels to get into college, it can also provide students with the means to get through college.”

The Organizing Committee determined that scholarships, grant making and the establishment of an endowment would ensure the sustainability of improving educational opportunities for Hawaii Island students in STEM disciplines. It further recognized that an emphasis be given to improving opportunities for STEM education for Native Hawaiian students, not as an exclusive preference, but focusing on addressing the needs of Hawaii’s host culture.

TMT’s annual $1 million contribution allocates $750,000 to THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and $250,000 to THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation. The foundations will administer their respective THINK Funds independently and will have autonomy in administering grant funds, determining scholarship recipients, and the selection and governance of Advisory Committees.

THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation

Grants are available by application to THINK Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation beginning November 20th and will support a variety of Hawaii Island STEM student activities in and after-school, internship programs and teacher-generated STEM classroom projects. Scholarships will support current and future STEM teachers on Hawaii Island as well as students pursuing STEM degrees and training. Scholarship applications will be available online on December 1st, 2014.

“For the past 98 years, Hawaii Community Foundation has had the privilege of serving our island communities across the state,” said Kelvin Taketa, president and CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation. “We’re honored to be the stewards of the THINK Fund at HCF that will support STEM education on Hawaii Island for generations to come.”

Advisory Committee members of THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation are Laurie Ainslie, Roberta Chu, Mary Correa, Kaeo Duarte, Hiapo Perreira, Doug Simons and Barry Taniguchi. The Advisory Committee, facilitated by Hawaii Community Foundation staff, will assist with strategy development, review grant proposals, make grant decisions and encourage STEM education for Hawaii Island.

THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation is open to all Hawaii Island students including Native Hawaiians, teachers with STEM classroom projects and organizations providing STEM and internship programs that directly benefit Hawaii Island. Learn more and apply at www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org.

The Hawaii Island office of Hawaii Community Foundation is located in Waimea.

THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation

Scholarship Programs will be the initial focus of THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation. Grant making is being considered for the future.

“With Hawaii Island having the second largest population of Native Hawaiians in the state of Hawaii, our partnership with TMT provides much-needed financial support for Hawaiian learners from Hawaii Island to pursue educational opportunities in STEM,” said Hawaii Island resident and Pauahi Foundation Executive Director Keawe Liu.

Advisory committee members of THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation are Roberta Chu, Kaeo Duarte, Leinaala Enos, David Kaapu, Bob Lindsey, Gail Makuakane-Lundin and Maile Wong.

THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation is open to all Hawaii Island students with a preference given to applicants of Hawaiian ancestry to the extent permitted by law. Scholarship applications will be available online on February 4, 2015 at www.pauahi.org.

THINK Fund Collaboration

THINK Fund was designed as an initiative to encourage and attract other funders who align with the mission and goal to improve STEM education and strengthen Hawaii Island’s workforce, and TMT is serving as the founding member of the THINK Fund initiative. The vision of this collaborative approach is to bring together the island community with funders in a partnership that strives to help Hawaii Island students long term.

What’s Next For TMT?

Construction activities in Hawaii include site preparation and grading.

Offsite work has begun in earnest as well. In China, partners are designing the telescope’s fully articulated main science steering mirror system and developing the laser guide star system. Japan has produced over sixty special zero thermal-expansion glass mirror blanks for the main mirror and is designing the telescope structure in detail. Fabricating the mirror support system is ongoing in India. The adaptive optics facility is in final design and the enclosure is ready for construction in Canada.  The primary mirror and mirror control system is in final design in California.

The advancement of TMT to this stage of imminent on-site construction has been made possible by the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The foundation has spent $141 million to date to fund the design, development, and construction phases of TMT.

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