Hawaii STEM Conference: Countless opportunities for West Side students
WAILEA – The sixth annual Hawaii STEM Conference held April 17-18 once again lived up to its reputation as the state’s premiere science, technology, engineering and math conference for students and educators.
The Women in Technology (WIT) Project presented the event, sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) in partnership with Maui County. The conference offers Hawaii participants the opportunity to see what’s out in the world of technology and to keep abreast of the latest developments.
Set against Maui ocean views and cool sea breezes at the Wailea Marriott Resort and Spa, the conference drew over 500 students, educators and industry and community leaders from across the state and nation. The two action-packed days provided educational opportunities with a convergence of shared ideas, knowledge and skills.
Since it began in 2009, the Hawaii STEM Conference has grown in stature and popularity, attracting prominent national partners and sponsorship from top technology companies like Google, National Geographic, Apple for Education, SketchUp, OpTerra and others. This year, the conference welcomed Microsoft and NASA for the first time.
“It’s wonderful to see the culmination of so many years of investment and partnerships with education, industry and community leaders,” said Leslie R. Wilkins, vice president of MEDB and director of the WIT program.
“The proof is in the caliber of the student projects along with the nationwide software and technology companies that are here to share their expertise and state-of-the-art tools. Attendees received first-hand exposure to the latest software training and real world challenges in the form of fun, hands-on-team projects and competitions.”
For many students, this was their first experience attending a regional technology conference complete with breakout sessions, software competitions, onsite Digital Media Competition, exhibit presentations and a formal award banquet.
“It’s all about engaging our students and educators through interactive STEM learning,” said WIT Program Director Isla Young. “We strive to make the conference experience unique each year. Whether it’s adding fresh program content, introducing new technologies, bringing in prominent speakers, offering network opportunities or opening one’s eyes to possible careers, it all adds up to an empowering STEM experience.”
Daisy Miranda, Lahaina Intermediate School eighth-grader, and her teammates presented the school’s Ke Ali’i Broadcasting and Technology Program. “We showcased various videos that we created for HIKO NO, PBS Hawaii’s first statewide student news network that is written, hosted, produced and edited by students,” she explained.
“The booth also included photos of how our technology students produce and direct the school’s Morning Broadcast. We included certificates from awards we’ve won, such as the 808 Filmmakers Award for producing a video on texting and driving.”
“Working on our booth has been an interesting experience for all of us,” said Miranda, noting that participating in Tom Norton’s media class has given her the incentive to continue in this field throughout high school.
“Being part of STEM, I learned that there is a lot more to engineering than building, and that it is a job area that is not only for men but for women, too.”
Norton, Lahaina Intermediate School’s technology coordinator, is an avid supporter of the STEM Conference and other MEDB workshops held throughout the year.
“Because of MEDB, I have acquired more professional training and support to mentor my students in technology,” he said, noting how the STEM Conference opens pathways for youth to succeed in the future.
Lahainaluna High School students presented their broadcast program: LUNA TV-46. “The morning broadcast has taught students to be self-directed learners, critical thinkers and effective users of technology,” said Lahainaluna Technology Coordinator Jon Shigaki.
In another exhibit, Lahainaluna presented work done by the 30-plus students in the engineering and technology classes.
“This year, Lahainaluna’s STEMworks Program introduced new curriculum focused around building knowledge in mechanical, electrical and software engineering and utilizing the engineering design process to work on realistic projects,” said Tad Luckey, Lahainaluna Industrial and Engineering Technology teacher.
“For example, we exhibited student designs of an emergency relay system for isolated or remote classrooms. In addition, the teammates also built and presented a simple solar system to power small devices and store energy – a mobile device that rotates with sunlight to maximize use of the sun’s energy.”
In parallel with the STEM Conference, educators participated in a two-day, hands-on Teacher Professional Development Workshop.
“We are grateful to MEDB for their support throughout the year and for putting on the annual STEM Conference,” said Luckey. “It allows so many schools and industry professionals to come together to discuss ideas on technology and how we can apply it practically and positively for Hawaii.”
As shown by the strong statewide attendance and top-tier quality of event partners and presenters, the Hawaii STEM Conference is growing in prestige and impact with each succeeding year.