Maui Business

8th Annual Hawai‘i STEM Conference Empowers New Generation

May 4, 2017, 7:50 AM HST
* Updated May 4, 7:56 AM
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Austin Kaalekahi, a 7th grader at ʻO Hina I Ka Mālama on Molokaʻi was engaged in the Microsoft team’s virtual reality with Oculus Rift at the conference’s STEMworks™ Playground.

More than 1,000 students, educators, industry partners and community leaders throughout the state and the nation gathered for the 8th Annual Hawaiʻi STEM Conference – an empowering STEM event dedicated to engaging a new generation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math innovators in Hawaii.

Presented by Maui Economic Development Board’s Women in Technology project, the conference, which took place on May 1-2, was held for the first time at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center on Oʻahu. This year’s theme, “Download Knowledge. Upload Service,” invited students to demonstrate and showcase the skills and abilities they have gained to help create a thriving future, not only for Hawaiʻi, but the world.

Teachers harnessed the potential of LEGO as an educational and creative tool during a “Learning with LEGO: Exploring Education Through Play” session lead by Wrenn Okada and Salia Wilson of Play-Well TEKnologies.

Students and teachers representing intermediate and high schools from every island across the state of Hawaiʻi participated in this regional technology conference which featured 40+ student breakout sessions, 30+ teacher breakout sessions, 14 software competitions, a STEM playground, a formal awards banquet (“The STEMMYS), and exhibit presentations.

“I really like how innovative STEM education is,” said Keona Conroy-Humphrey, a junior at Lānaʻi High School. “Whether you’re learning about energy efficiency, computer technology, satellite communications, cyber security and other topics – immersing yourself in STEM ultimately helps society as a whole.”

Roosevelt High School’s Matthew Shimoda (a senior) and Kaylee Fujioka (a junior) build a hand-held launcher using everyday materials to defend themselves against the Zombie Apocalypse in “STEM in Action: Bottle Cap Projectile Launcher.”

Caleb Soo Hoo, a senior at Baldwin High School who plans to pursue a career in mechanical or aeronautical engineering with a minor in digital media, shared what he likes best about STEM, “I enjoy the idea that there are no boundaries where we create our own limits and we basically are the brains behind our own projects. To see our vision realized is the best kind of feeling.”


“Coming to this conference really opens up your horizons,” said Mykaela Padron, a sophomore at Baldwin High School. “Right now I’m interested in a variety careers – maybe becoming a doctor or film director or even an astronaut. During the conference’s 5×5 Session one of the industry professionals we spoke with shared that it’s possible you can have more than one career and I thought I just might do that.”

Elizabeth Yee, STEMworks™ afterschool instructor at Pukalani Elementary School practices visual storytelling as a form of communication during a teachers’ breakout session, “Basic Shots.” In this workshop, participants learn how to enhance their story or presentation through the careful application of their own photos.


“The HI STEM Conference was great,” said Romel Gaspar, a senior at Honokaʻa High School on the Big Island. “There was a lot of interactive things to do, new technology and innovations to see, and we got to reach out to many industry professionals that work in high level positions. Along with that we got to meet other students who share our same passion for technology and got to make new friends. It was a whole lot of fun!”

Students also had the opportunity to participate in STEM competitions. This year’s Hawaii STEM Conference winners were:

– CAD Showcase Application Competition – Brandon Marcos, Mayumi Fulgencio (Kauaʻi High School)
– Digital Storytelling Competition – Brandon Marcos (Kauaʻi High School)
– Game Design Competition – Henry Lonborg (Roosevelt High School)
– GIS – Storytelling with Maps Competition – Pag-asa Fulgencio (Kauaʻi High School)
– Music – instrumental Competition – Trey Metoyer (King Kekaulike High School)
– Music – lyrical Competition – Emma Rich (King Kekaulike High School)
– Photography Competition – Czhara Jan Saclayan (Maui High School)
– T-Shirt Design Competition – Shanelle Ancheta (Maui High School)
– STEM Career Interview Competition – Janine Harris (King Kekaulike High School)
– On-Site Video Competition * – Caleb Soo Hoo, Chris Kau (Baldwin High School)
– On-Site Royer Studios Competition – Micah Ban, George Villanueva, Taylor McCary, Taniya Whittman-Valdez, Kalia Kapisi (Maui High School)
– ArcGIS Online U.S. School Competition (Hawaiʻi finalists) –
o Pag-asa Fulgencio (Kauaʻi High School)
o Courtney Cadiz, Jett Bolusan, Braiden Paa (Maui High School)
o Amanda Schiff (Kealakehe High School)
o Kau’iwai Poepoe-Mollena, Kamahina Kaiama-Kanuha (Molokaʻi High School HLIP)
– Intermediate School PIA Competition – Czerena Bayle, Jadynne Zane, Cynthia Mercado Santana, Jaycie Iha (Maui Waena Intermediate School)
– High School PIA Competition – Haven-Luper-Jasso, Brooke Kanna, Marlena Lang, Leanna Thesken (Kauaʻi High School)
– 3Cs Intermediate – Maria Inong, Alyson Kar, Logan Tsukiyama, Hannah Okamoto (Maui Waena Intermediate School)
– 3Cs High School – Yasha Ronquillo, Carissa Pagan, Summer Montehermoso, Tiffany Banggo (Maui High School)


* Click HERE to view all the winning videos.

While this year’s conference excelled in engaging students and educators on a myriad of hands-on STEM activities, competitions, and access to the latest technologies; it was the overarching mission of the state’s largest STEM conference that brought home the true impact of STEM education.

According to Leslie Wilkins, MEDB Vice President, “Virtually every field in every sector of the economy whether a small business or major industry is needing STEM professionals – people who are literate and fluent in various technology skills. But just teaching current technology applications does not serve our children well, because technology changes so rapidly. So we need to focus on empowering our youth to be self-directed learners, to be resilient, to stay current and be adaptive to change and not be scared by it. And, most importantly, to have the confidence that they can do it. Instilling these values are at the heart of MEDB’s STEMworks™ program and what this conference is all about.”

Howard Kam, STEM teacher at Roosevelt High School, brought 22 students to the conference to give them a grasp on the many opportunities in the STEM fields. “Employers want young people who are well rounded meaning they have the book smarts, can speak and carry themselves well. They also seek individuals who have critical thinking abilities who are able to say I think this might be wrong and let me find the answers or these are the reasons why I might be right. Having an open mind and being able to solve problems and make a meaningful contribution are what employers want from their employees in the 21st century.”

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