6th Annual Hawaiʻi STEM Conference Gains Advocates

April 21, 2015, 4:36 PM HST · Updated April 21, 4:38 PM
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Conference keynote speaker Erika Bergman of National Geographic assists Jacob Villanueva (Maui Waena Intermediate School) with prepping an underwater ROV. This hands-on breakout session gave students an immersive experience in real world applications of marine technology and ocean exploration. Courtesy photo.

Conference keynote speaker Erika Bergman of National Geographic assists Jacob Villanueva (Maui Waena Intermediate School) with prepping an underwater ROV. This hands-on breakout session gave students an immersive experience in real world applications of marine technology and ocean exploration. Courtesy photo.

By Maui Now Staff

The 6th Annual Hawaiʻi STEM Conference on Friday and Saturday, April 17 and 18, reinforced its reputation as the state’s premiere science, technology engineering and math (STEM) conference for students and educators.

The event presented by Maui Economic Development Board’s Women in Technology project attracted more than 500 attendees, who explored the many benefits of STEM learning, showcased some of its best programs and projects, and expanded the state’s community of experiential STEM advocates.

Conference Instructor Marybeth Baldwin assists teachers Lila Parong (Prince Jonah Kalanianoaole Elementary & Intermediate School) with Tourbuilder, a software program during one of the teacher professional development workshops. Courtesy photo.

Conference Instructor Marybeth Baldwin assists teachers Lila Parong (Prince Jonah Kalanianoaole Elementary & Intermediate School) with Tourbuilder, a software program during one of the teacher professional development workshops. Courtesy photo.

The event’s impact is shown by its numbers, with 350 student participants, 100 teachers accessing professional development, and 75 industry professionals providing mentoring and career awareness.

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More that 30 schools and organizations statewide participated,
32 student breakout sessions were held, 12 STEM competitions were offered, and 150 laptops and iPads were used in interactive technology training sessions.

But the impact of the conference can’t be conveyed by numbers alone–it is the personal development and empowerment that many attendees will carry with them far beyond the conference.

stem 2015

Making smoke signals? No, just Lahaina Intermediate 8th graders Daisy Miranda (left) and Citlaly Ramirez participating in a hands-on experiment during the “Common Items, Uncommon Results!” breakout session. Courtesy photo.

“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.”

“Everyone realizes how important technology is in their lives and coming here to the conference, we get to see how it all works and how we can apply it in our lives,” said King Kekaulike High School senior Coleson Costales.

For Molokaʻi Middle School STEM teachers Kaeo and Kahoiwai Kawaʻa, a husband and wife team, the STEM Conference gave them the opportunity to showcase their program and their students’ work.

“We want them to learn how they can affect not only their lives but the lives of others,” Kahoiwai said.

Molokaʻi eighth-grader Evelyn Haase said she’s enjoyed traveling to the conference to share her love for science and the projects her STEM team has accomplished. The students developed and presented six-feet-tall displays that outlined their STEM projects–there were photographs from the Family Night organized to engaged grade-school-aged Molokaʻi youngsters in building mini-robots and participating in friendly competitions.

“Robotics really embodies all of STEM,” Haase said. “There’s science, there’s math and a lot of problem solving. I loved working with younger students. They really get to it and I just love it.”

Beth Conroy-Humphrey, a former teacher who serves as the counselor for middle and high school students on Lānaʻi , brought a contingent of six to the conference.

“MEDB is a huge financial STEM supporter, but what’s even more important is that their conference is student-centered,” said Conroy-Humphrey. “Everything is about and for the students. It’s about getting them excited about science, about math, about technology and about engineering. This conference is awesome!”

Maui High School seniors Brendan Gaffe and Marston Lau are veterans of the STEM Conference, having attended the event for three straight years. Both say they’re very interested in a career in engineering.

“This conference really gives you a lot of interactive opportunities and allows us to think about what we might want to do in the future,” said Gaffe, who’s considering one day opening his own business.

“One hundred percent I didn’t know much about STEM and now I see myself doing something in the field,” Lau added.

“Ultimately that’s what this conference is all about – creating opportunities and pathways for our youth to succeed in the future,” said Young.

Among the highlights this year were presentations by keynote speakers: Titan Gilroy of Titan Manufacturing; Erika Bergman, co-founder of GEECs (Girls Engineering and Exploration Counselors) and National Geographic Explorer; and Lauren Thompson of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

“Mahalo to all our student participants and conference competitors, and to the teachers who inspire them day in and day out to work toward a future in STEM,” said MEDB’s Isla Young. “The STEM Conference was made possible through the generosity of sponsors who see the great promise in our youth and want them to succeed. We’re all looking forward to next year’s event!”

For more information on the Hawaii STEM Conference, go online or contact WIT Program Director Isla Young at (808) 250-2888 or via email.

Winners of this year’s competitions were:

On-Site Video Competition
Yasha Ronquillo and Tifany Banggo
Maui High School

Royer Studios PSA Onsite Animation Competition – LIVE
Julie Rasos, Allyza Sayno, Danielle Tadeo, Roxanne Agtang
Maui High School

On-Site CAD Competition
Christian Fillazar, Brendan Geffe, Ryan Laberinto and Elenar Rasos
Maui High School

On-Site Hackathon Competition
Jeremie Amano, Gabriel Rayburn and Wyatt Roan
King Kekaulike High School

CAD Showcase Application Competition
Brendan Geffe
Maui High School

Poster Design Competition
Jan Erwin Bio
Maui High School

T-Shirt Design Competition
Julia Kimoto
Baldwin High School

Web Design Competition
Dylan Franco, Andrew Rezac
King Kekaulike High School

Project Impact Assessment Competition
Maya Ooki, Alesha Menor, Jeremie Amano
King Kekaulike High School

Game Design Competition
Tommy Nguyen, Chandelle Oliver & Natasha Bandack
Roosevelt High School

Royer Studios PSA Onsite Animation Competition – LIVE
Kevin Liu, William Li, Marlene Tana, Abigail Olipani
Roosevelt High School

GIS – Storytelling with Maps Competition
Saba Rehman, Kiaben Capelle, Kai Kanae, Hua Yi Li
Roosevelt High School

Music Competition
Carl Tanabe
Roosevelt High School

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