Maui Economic Development Board‘s Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner and Auction grossed $331,800 to advance STEM education in Maui County. The event, held Aug. 20 at the Fairmont Kea Lani, celebrated the Fund’s 10th year with 550 attendees including U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui and Mayor Alan Arakawa.
The event also featured presentations by the 2016 Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award winners. MEDB President and CEO Jeanne Skog said the MEDB Board of Directors established the Inouye Award in 2013 in honor of the late Senator who did so much to inspire youth and provide STEM opportunities.
Jennifer Goto-Sabas, Director of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute Fund, said the annual award was created to inspire students in their STEM pursuits in innovation and technology–and to encourage them to focus on community while working to make life better for Maui County citizens.
The criteria for the award is the innovative use of technology to make a difference, according to Leslie Wilkins, MEDB’s Vice President and director of their STEM education to workforce initiatives. “Students select an issue in their community that interests them. Then, by using sophisticated technology and/or by inventing their own tools, they create a real solution to address the community challenge,” Wilkins said.
The first place Inouye Innovation Award went to Jasmine and Keona Conroy-Humphrey for their Lanai Fire Hydrant Collection project. The sisters, both juniors at Lanai High School, used the training they received and the Geospatial (GIS) software in their MEDB STEMworks lab to locate, load in the collector app, and create an updated map of where fire hydrants are located on Lanai. The electronic map helps the Lanai Water Company and the firefighters geolocate the fire hydrants in a timely manner which will help to make Lanai a safer place. The Conroy-Humphrey sisters will each receive $3,000 in technology education tools of their choice and the Lanai High School STEMworks lab will receive $3,300. Plus, their project is being used by the Maui County Fire Department.
Jasmine Conroy-Humphrey pointed out the wonderful opportunity the award and STEM programs are for all, especially young women. “I think STEM offers a great opportunity for everyone, especially because in the past it was mostly men in the science, technology and engineering fields,” said Jasmine Conroy-Humphrey. “Today, STEM gives us all an equal chance no matter who we are or where we come from. It also gives us an opportunity to do what we love and inspires us to be the best that they can be.”
The second place award went to Evelyn Haase for developing a pH sensor using a Raspberry Pi to monitor ocean acidification. Haase, a sophomore at Molokai High, invented a pH sensor that can measure accurate data detecting the tiniest changes to the ocean pH due to environmental fluctuations. Not only does it improve accuracy, but is offers a huge cost savings compared to the current systems available to marine scientists. Estimates are that her device is 1/42 of the price (which is about $200 to compared to $11,000 for today’s technology costs) and requires half the maintenance of the current system. Haase will receive $2,000 to further her scientific research and educational pursuits and Molokai High School will receive $3,300 for improvements to their STEMworks lab.
“Working on my project, I now know how to do basic computer programming, how electronics work, and I have a bit more confidence going into my second year of this project as it enters the deployable stage,” said Haase. “Long-term, I want to work with students in the classrooms, show them how to program a Raspberry Pi, how to build a pH sensor, how they can monitor ocean acidification and contribute their information to further scientific studies.”
Maya Ooki and Jett Bolusan won third place for their Maui Bugpedia project. This MEDB STEMworks internship team – 2016 King Kekaulike High graduate Ooki and Maui High senior Bolusan – worked over the summer to support HC&S’s transition plans for the sugar lands. Working with Mae Nakahata of HC&S, Ooki and Bulosan researched and created a comprehensive list of pests on Maui lands and compiled them into a “Wikipedia-like” website to help not only HC&S plan for new crops, but to be a tool for all Maui farmers. Ooki and Bolusan will each receive $1,000 to expand their STEM education, and Ooki’s teacher Emily Haines Swatek of King Kekaulike High School and Bolusan’s teacher Keith Imada of Maui High School will each receive $1,700 for improvements to their respective STEMworks labs.
“One of the main things I gained from our Maui Bugpedia project was working with local employees from HC&S, Monsanto and UH Maui College’s agriculture department,” said Bolusan. “I believe if we are to create something, it should have practical use that benefits everyone rather than just a small group.”
Photo courtesy of MEDB