Maui News

STEM Conference Hackathons Aim to Encourage Student Leadership

April 28, 2019, 10:33 AM HST
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The 10th annual Hawaiʻi STEM Conference will feature three fast paced hackathons that challenge student teams to make a social, cultural, and environmental impact. The Maui Economic Development Boardʻs STEMworks initiative is hosting the conference, which will be held on May 1 and 2 at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center on Oʻahu.

Below is a list of details about each of the hackathons:

Hackathon 1: Voyaging Song Challenge

In this hack, students will be challenged to create a voyaging song that embodies the spirit of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s mission to bring together nations from around the world in peace and to raise awareness for the oceans and environment. Students will learn about basic recording techniques and receive songwriting pointers from industry professionals.

Keynote speaker Nainoa Thompson, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, will begin the challenge by explaining the mission and theme of upcoming voyages. Thompson will speak to the beauty of Hawaiʻi’s culture, the arts, and the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to inspire these young song creators.


“Nainoa will challenge students to inspire others to help protect the oceans and bring our global community closer together through shared understanding and cultural exchange,” STEMworks Director of STEM Education and Workforce Development Isla Young said. “He will also challenge them to craft a message for their generation that learning can be much more than sitting in a classroom.”


Student teams will then shape a rough melody and draft lyrics. Singer/songwriter Henry Kapono, Mana Mele engineer Kelli Cruz, and Punahou School music teacher James Anshutz will be on hand to guide teams to find that inner spark that can catch fire in the recording sessions to follow.  In addition, students will be able to record their songs with Meleana, Mana Maoli’s state-of-the-art solar mobile studio.

Students who complete the challenge will be given the opportunity to take their songs to the next level and work in a professional recording studio.

Hackathon 2: Coral Hack


In this hackathon, student teams will be tasked with finding solutions to rising ocean temperatures that are damaging the planetʻs coral reefs.

According to NOAA, climate change is the greatest global threat to coral reef ecosystems. Scientific evidence now clearly indicates that the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean are warming, primarily from greenhouse gases emitted through human activities. Many scientists in Hawai’i are a part of the global effort to develop corals that can adapt to warming oceans. This challenge aims to give students the chance to help.

During this hackathon, student teams will use their 3D printing skills to develop new structures that corals can attach to and grow from. Experts will share the specific criteria their inventions should address and empower hack participants to find solutions.

The winners of this challenge will be given the opportunity to work at the meLab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa this summer. These students will help finalize prototypes and create 3D prints of designs for scientists to test with corals.

Hackathon 3: Citizen Science Haccup

In this hack, participants will be tasked with bringing attention to the planet’s endangered and threatened animals by developing a new app to mobilize citizen scientists. This hackathon will challenge students to use their creativity to excite people around the world to join in the effort to make a difference. Students will also be required to record their discoveries.  

Winners will be given an internship opportunity at the iLab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa over the summer. As interns, students will complete the design work and proof of concept for a first version of their app.

These three hackathons are just some of the many interactive STEM experiences awaiting students and teachers at this year’s Hawaiʻi STEM Conference. The hackathons will kick off at 8:30 a.m. on May 1 and will end with a STEMMYʻs Awards luncheon the next day.

Middle and high school students have until 4:30 p.m. on April 31 to sign up for the hackathons. The hackathon registration fee is free with the exception of a $50 fee for the STEMMY’s Awards Luncheon. More details can be found online or by emailing [email protected].

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