Maui News

Nearly 200 Students Tackle Hawaiʻi’s Energy Challenges

November 16, 2018, 2:27 PM HST
* Updated November 19, 6:09 AM
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Nearly 200 students from across the state participated in the Blue Planet Foundation’s 2018 Student Energy Summit, which was held from Sunday to Monday at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center. The summit gave these middle and high school students the chance to tackle real world clean energy issues through interactive workshops and hands-on challenges.

“I learned a lot about renewable energy,” said Indiana Auchenbach, 11, from Kaunakakai School on Molokaʻi. “One thing I thought was cool was learning how solar panels work with photons. That’s really cool.”

Auchenbach’s team won the design challenge in the breakout session on carbon buildup, removing the greatest number of “carbon” ping pong balls with a device they built using cardboard and plastic tubes. Auchenbach said she wants to help classrooms back on Molokaʻi get LED lights and help households get solar panels.

In other sessions, students worked with community experts to learn about fuel cells, solar power, energy efficiency, and climate campaign strategies. The theme of this year’s Summit was “SPACESHIP EARTH: failure is not an option.” According to the Blue Planet Foundation, the theme draws from the story of the Apollo 13 moon mission to describe the current climate crisis. When an explosion on board Apollo 13 threatened the lives of the astronauts, they work with engineers and designers on the ground to return safely to Earth.

“We have to instill urgency in people to make a change now,” Blue Planet Foundation education coordinator Griff Jurgens said. “These students will be coming up with solutions that help bridge the gap to 100 percent clean energy, not only for Hawaiʻi but for the whole world.”


Students also got the chance to put their knowledge to use, working in teams to create energy plans for their communities and schools. Project Learning Tree also led a professional development workshop on energy curriculum for teachers from across the islands.


The two-day event coincided with the most destructive wildfires on record in California, which were highlighted in plenary and breakout sessions. The summit also came less than a month after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report that warns of the consequences of failing to address global warming.

Blue Planet Foundation also made a surprise announcement, student artwork from a Blue Planet art contest in August will inspire the design of all new electric tour buses that JTB Hawaiʻi, Inc. will debut in April 2019.

“It’s inspiring to see such enthusiasm among students joining our summit, whether it’s their first or their fourth year here,” Blue Planet Foundation special projects director Francois Rogers said. “This is our next generation of leaders, and we’re honored to have this opportunity to work with them to solve climate change.”

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