Lahaina Intermediate girls find inspiration at Excite Camp
LAHAINA – Last week, two Lahaina Intermediate middle school girls, Jaiyah Finn and Kiana Claydon, had the opportunity to attend Excite Camp, a Women in Technology (WIT) program sponsored by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB).
The mission of WIT is to encourage women and girls to pursue education and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in the State of Hawaii. Excite Camp, offering stimulating, experience-based instruction focused on today’s most in-demand career fields, combines lectures, hands-on activites, geospatial technologies and onsite tours.
Participants not only gain new academic skills and knowledge, they meet new friends and create lasting memories.
“The last 17 years, Excite Camp has been held on Maui and open to all Maui County middle school girls,” said Mapu Quitazol, WIT program manager. “Three years ago, we went statewide hosting camps on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Molokai, and this year on Kauai. The camp builds confidence and motivates our young ladies with STEM activities, teaching them that they can do anything they set their hearts on. Each island has the same agenda but very different activities and cultural site visits.”
The camp attendance has been kept to 24-30 girls to create a small, intimate group. Each participant joins a group of four and is led by a female mentor. The mentor, who acts as a role model, explains the activities and works in close proximity with each student, helping them feel comfortable in their surroundings.
“At the end of the four-day program, the girls are no longer strangers but colleagues and friends,” said Excite Camp mentor Dominie Miyasato. “In addition to getting excited about STEM, they learn the value of teamwork, communication and honoring their island heritage.”
Miyasato, a biomedical engineering major at the University of California, noted that her family always encouraged her to participate in STEM subjects and supported her desire to pursue higher education.
“Because of the guidance I was given, I feel responsible to relay that message to younger girls,” Miyasato explained. “Working for WIT is aligned with my values and what I want to do with my life.”
“During Excite Camp, the role of engineers was made clearer,” said Finn, Lahaina Intermediate seventh-grader. “It was wonderful having people encourage us during Excite Camp. Mrs. Quitazol, Ms. Miyasato and the teachers made us feel that we are smart and can accomplish all of our goals.”
Claydon, Lahaina Intermediate sixth-grader, agreed. “I didn’t realize that engineering could be so much fun. Excite Camp offered so many hands-on activities that forced us to be creative and problem-solve by thinking outside the box.”
The girls described the week as “Brain Camp.”
“We learned about GIS (geospatial information systems) Crowdsourcing to share data and maps with a group of people through technology, and Snap 2 Map,” said Finn. “We were able to share common things we were doing, our location and activities, with the interisland Excite Camp girls, and to use geolocation tools that are used in so many different fields.”
Claydon added, “GIS is a needed skill in all communities and is a career field of its own. I learned that with this skill you can locate animals, plants and so much more. You can use geography and maps in a real-world career by learning applicable technology such as GIS. Excite Camp showed me that engineering is fun and that I can do more than I thought I could.”
The girls experienced Maui’s first community-based biofuel crop project during their onsite tour to Pacific Biodiesel Technologies (PBT), Hawaii’s largest biofuel company. PBT farms sunflowers and other biofuel crops on 115 acres previously used for sugar cane production.
“We learned that the Maui sunflowers and other combine-harvested crops can be used in any diesel engine without modification,” said Finn. “Our tour guide, Kim, told us that they are focusing on several different crops and soil made from byproducts to create fewer emissions than petroleum diesel. We also learned how the sunflowers always follow the sun and that these beautiful flowers give us hope for Hawaii’s green economy future.”
Hardware Science Day at the camp featured Carrera Catugal, Housemart/ Ben Franklin Science Program developer.
“To be a science wizard, you don’t need a laboratory filled with fancy equipment,” Catugal said. “The right piece of hardware for scientific discovery or invention might be under your nose. For me, seeing children experience live science, learn how to think like a scientist and conduct fun and interactive experiments is priceless!”
“We had so much fun during Science Day,” said Finn and Claydon. “Our favorite activity was making kites out of straws, thread and tissue paper!” they both exclaimed. “We made it, and it really flew, and that was so awesome! We did so many things at Excite Camp that we didn’t think we could do!”
On the final day, participants were given a STEMworks College Tool Kit tutorial. “It’s never too early to think about what you want to do after high school,” Quitazol explained to the girls. “Thinking about where you want to go to college helps prepare you, your family and your school counselors for what classes you should take in order to achieve your goals.”
Quitazol told an audience during the Excite Camp Showcase Presentation, “Excite Camp is successful due to our great community partners who are willing to share their knowledge, time and resources to come and teach our girls fun, hands-on STEM experiments. Over the years I have seen more girls coming into the program eager and ready to learn. This year the girls were positive, willing to just jump in and figure out problems. Although these girls did not know each other before this camp, they worked well together as they approached each lesson as a team.”