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Lahaina Intermediate students attend Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Mar 5, 2020

Lahaina Intermediate School student Jordan Gomez works on her Popsicle Stick Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Flashlight with teacher Mari Finn at Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

LAHAINA – Lahaina Intermediate School girls and their teacher, Mari Finn, attended Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGED) on Thursday, Feb. 20. Sponsored by Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) STEMworks (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program, IGED was organized as part of the National Engineers Week observance.

Locally, over 70 participants joined MEDB’s 20th IGED anniversary in activities designed to interest girls in engineering career paths, which traditionally have been male-dominated. The STEMworks in-school and afterschool program engages, inspires and motivates K-12 students throughout the islands.

“Our project-based model is recognized nationally as an innovative, relevant and successful approach to education,” said Lalaine Pasion, STEMworks project manager.

“The mission of STEMworks is to provide students and teachers resources and tools that empower them to improve their community and the world.”

Pasion continued, “During IGED, MEDB was part of inspiring every girl. We hope today’s activities increased the students’ understanding and interest in several of the dynamic and rewarding opportunities available in engineering and technology fields.”

Lahaina Intermediate girls learned a lot about engineering careers at Hawaiian Electric during IGED 2020. Pictured (from left) are Carissa Cuentas, Blessy Calapit, Shansi Boaz, Naiya Eide, Jordan Gomez, Afnan Oleiwan and STEMworks teacher Mari Finn. PHOTO BY CINDY SCHUMACHER.

“To celebrate, industry partners Hawaiian Electric and the National Solar Observatory (NSO), along with MEDB’s STEMworks team and teachers, connected the schools to real-world learning opportunities,” she said.

Lahaina Intermediate STEMworks teacher Finn agreed.

“IGED 2020 is a great experience for students. I love how MEDB planned this engaging and interactive Maui event. MEDB has been so supportive of Lahaina Intermediate throughout the years, and our students have all benefited from the STEM-related encouragement and inspiration,” she commented.

“Our goal at Lahaina Intermediate is to challenge and support students as they strive for excellence,” Finn said.

“During IGED, Maui County engineers helped us achieve that goal by sharing their personal stories about their own education and how they came to their jobs at Hawaiian Electric and NSO.”

“We had a tour of the electric company and saw the dispatch room,” Finn explained. “In that room, all of Maui’s substations were on the board. If there were any outages, employees could look at the board and immediately recognize where the outage is. That was so interesting to see! The NSO engineers also inspired the girls with their work and explained some of the tasks that the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) is now performing. The girls asked many questions about the Sun and space-related phenomena. They got to talk to the engineers first-hand and could see how hard work and setting goals pay off.”

Sharon Suzuki, Hawaiian Electric president of Maui County and Hawaii Island Utilities, said, “We’re honored to be a long-standing supporter of this event that has introduced young females on Maui to the field of engineering for the past 20 years. As a partner since its inception, our Maui staff always looks forward to engaging and fostering a new generation of STEM leaders and professionals in our communities.”

Throughout the day, engineering options and careers were explained to the students. They learned that engineering offers more career options than any other discipline and that engineers are changing the world all of the time.

They solve problems through creative, practical solutions, working with others to invent, design and create things that matter. By the end of the day, many of the girls wanted to be part of that world.

Engineering is a profession that can take you from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of outer space, from within the microscopic cell to the top of the tallest skyscrapers. Students heard of the most popular engineering fields, including aerospace, agricultural, civil, chemical, electrical, computer and software, bioengineering and biomedical, architectural, environmental, industrial, management, mechanical, nuclear, mining, petroleum, systems and more.

Hawaiian Electric engineers gave tours of the facility and engaged the students in experiments, including The Popsicle Stick Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Flashlight. This helped the students learn about positive and negative charges with a simple circuit. In assembling the flashlight, the girls learned how a circuit worked and how to troubleshoot if their light didn’t go on. The goal was for them to feel good about something they made in hopes of piquing their interest in circuitry.

Mathew McNeff, director of Maui County at Hawaiian Electric, led the students on a behind-the-scenes tour of the company’s dispatch area.

“The students learned what it takes to keep electricity flowing to customers across the island as well as how much power is being used by customers and how much energy is being produced at any time,” he said.

“This experience was amazing,” said Lahaina Intermediate seventh-grader Naiya Eide. “It really inspired me to set goals and to be the best I can be and not give up. The presentations were great. I especially appreciate how Hawaiian Electric and the NSO engineers talked to us. We received helpful and encouraging information. The IGED experience has made me much more interested in becoming an engineer.”

Eighth-grader Blessy Calapit said, “I think the IGED event was genuinely helpful and informative. I was encouraged to pursue a path among the many engineering fields, and I learned more about what sort of problems engineers need to solve. The event was separated into two groups, Hawaiian Electric and NSO. I chose Hawaiian Electric, where our group worked with a design planner to digitally make a blueprint of a circuit. Afterward, we were given materials to build an exact working model of the circuit we made. Fortunately, the engineers helped us understand the importance of the wire connections to make the speaker work. Overall, IGED encouraged us to explore the many different engineering job opportunities available to us.”

Seventh-grader Jordan Gomez added, “I learned that there are so many different types of engineers and about what types of issues they work on. This experience has made me consider pursuing a career in an engineering field in the future. The Hawaiian Electric engineers, most of them women, taught us how to make a LED Light circuit and gave us useful advice about what to study now in school and later in college to enter an engineering career. I enjoyed asking them questions and appreciated their support and reassurance to keep working to achieve my goals, no matter what. Overall, I had a great time, learned so much, and hope to attend next year!”