Maui News

STEM Stars Honored by Maui Economic Development Board

September 10, 2019, 7:24 AM HST
Listen to this Article
4 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Maui County’s outstanding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) stars were showcased during the annual Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner & Auction, “Pathways to Our Future.”   More than 500 guests attended the event on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019 at the Wailea Beach Resort–Marriott, Maui.


The evening featured an Apples for Education Silent and Live Auctions; the first-ever Price Is Right, STEM Edition game; and memorable presentations by Maui County’s STEM students, teachers, and stakeholders.

Winners of two prestigious 2019 STEM awards were also announced: the Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award which recognizes outstanding students who have demonstrated the most innovative use of STEM tools and programs to serve and improve our community, and the Lesley and Pawel Czechowicz Award, which recognizes exceptional educators in Maui Nui.

The fundraising event will help to advance MEDB’s STEM education programs from kindergarten to careers; as well as enable MEDB to continue to pursue meaningful pathways that benefit the lives of residents in Maui County and statewide.

This is the second year the Czechowicz donated $15,000 to honor outstanding educators with a cash prize. Recipients of this year’s Czechowicz Award went to: Elizabeth Conroy-Humphrey of Lānaʻi High & Elementary School, Jennifer Suzuki of Maui Waena Intermediate School, and David Kawika Gonzales of Kaunakakai Elementary School. Each received $5,000 which they can spend for their own personal use.


Conroy-Humphrey has been the 6-12 academic college and career guidance counselor for the past six years at Lānaʻi High & Elementary School. She supports students in middle school to gain experience and exposure to careers and guides their selection of high school courses to prepare them for career and college opportunities including internships, dual enrollment courses, and scholarships. She has been integrating STEM for students in grades K-12 for 15 years.


Suzuki is a STEMworks™ lab teacher at Maui Waena Intermediate School. Her students have garnered both state and national awards for video and television production and creative media, as well as produced videos and created websites for nonprofit organizations. The media program is affiliated with Student Television Network, Hiki No (Hawaiʻi’s PBS student news weekly broadcast), along with PBS Student Reporting Labs.

Gonzales has been teaching STEM and Computer Science in the classroom for the past 10 years. With an array of professional development workshops and industry connections, David is trained to incorporate topics such as coding, virtual and augmented reality, and other technology into the classroom. With his training, he created a program at Kaunakakai Elementary School called “weTEACH STEM,” where his students become the teachers and teach other students the fundamentals of robotics, programming, and coding. Through their efforts, the school has been able to teach STEM to all 3rd to 6th grade students.

This year, Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award went to the Baldwin High School team that created a product to help stimulate coral regrowth to help mitigate the effects of coral bleaching.


The team captured first place in a Coral Hackathon during the Hawaiʻi STEM Conference, presented by MEDB’s STEMworks™, held at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center on May 1 and 2, 2019.

Award recipients were: Cameron Loewen (who is attending the University of Arizona), Kalila Phillips (currently at UHMC majoring in Biology), Victoria Teoh (attending University of Houston), and Brandon Wong (resides on Maui and currently in the workforce). The four students each received $2,000 to support their continued education and career pathways. Their teacher Trisha Roy, a STEMworks™ Advisor at H.P. Baldwin High School, also received $2,000 to support the Baldwin STEMworks’ lab.

According to Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President, “The Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Award is the highest student honor that MEDB bestows. Named in memory of the late Senator, who anchored this MEDB Ke Alahele event for many years and was our foundation for supporting STEM education, this annual award is presented to a Maui County student project team that demonstrates the most innovative use of STEM tools and capabilities to serve and improve our community.”

New to the event was the Price Is Right, STEM Edition led by game hosts Mackie Mac (of the Trance and Mackie show on Da Jam 98.3 FM) and Kilakila “Da Big Hawaiian” Kamau (of KPOA 93.5 FM). According to Wilkins, “This lively game provided an opportunity to share what it actually costs for various STEM programs, equipment and initiatives. It also provided a forum for Maui County’s STEM stars to share how the community’s generous support of STEM education is priceless.”

2019 MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund Benefit Dinner & Auction was sponsored by: Kaiser Permanente; Lesley & Pawel Czechowicz; American Savings Bank; Maui Electric Company; Roy H. Okumura and Lorraine M. Okumura Foundation, founders of Valley Isle Produce, and Island Grocery Depot; PSAV; Pulama Lanai; Bank of Hawaiʻi; Enterprise, National Car Rental & Alamo; Maui Health System; Maui Research and Technology Park Partners; Brown and Caldwell; Dowling Co. ; First Hawaiian Bank; Goodfellow Bros. and Pacific Rim Land; Haleakala Ranch; HEMIC; Mahi Pono; Akaku Maui Community Media; Alaka‘ina Foundation; Alexander & Baldwin; Aloha Recycling; National Science Foundation, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope; Bayer U.S. – Crop Science; Betsill Brother LLC; Central Pacific Bank; Dorvin D. Leis Co., Inc.; Friends of Rosalyn Baker; HC&D; Hale Mahaolu; Hawaiian Airlines; Hawaiian Telcom; HouseMart (Ben Franklin Crafts/Ace Hardware HI); Kaonoulu Ranch; Layton Construction Company; Local Union 1186 IBEW; Maui County Farm Bureau; Maui Hotel & Lodging Association; The Maui News; Munekiyo Hiraga; Pacific Media Group; Queen Kaʻahumanu Center; Spectrum; University of Hawaiʻi; Wailea Beach Resort; Wailuku Village People; and Young Brothers.

Students shared about the impact of MEDB’s THINKits™, a powerful K-12 toolkit designed to nurture creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking. Pictured from left: Makena Fujita, Mika Tokushima, and Allison Tokushima from Pukalani STEMworks™ AFTERschool program. Price Is Right, STEM Edition game co-host Mackie Mac holds a robot first grader Mika programed. “I loved making the robots move with the codes I programmed! I know that being a girl who codes is important and I plan to learn more,” said Tokushima. Photo credit: Jose Morales

Students shared the power of robotics (pictured from left): Blake Yatsushiro, Brayden Kitagawa, and Izzy Enriquez. According to Branden, “Our robotics team did so well, that we got to fly to the mainland to compete in the National U.S. Create Robotics Competition in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was a really long distance to fly, but it was worth it, because we placed in the top 14 in the nation!” Photo credit: Jose Morales

Daniel K. Inouye Innovation Awardees (pictured from left): Kalila Phillips, Brandon Wong, and Trisha Roy. Not pictured: Cameron Loewen and Victoria Teoh. According to Kalila, “We had such an amazing experience at this year’s Hawaii STEM Conference held at the Hawaii Convention Center. We had the opportunity to participate in the on-site Coral Hackathon which challenged teams to create a new coral model, design in CAD and then printed on a 3D printer. It was so inspiring to have access to training, exposure to cutting edge STEM tools, and networking with Industry professionals.” Photo credit: Jose Morales

E-Mail Newsletters Receive daily or weekly updates via e-mail. Subscribe Now
News Alerts Breaking news alerts on your mobile device. Get the App


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Maui Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments