Maui News

Student Winners of ʻImi Pono Challenge Announced by County Council

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Wyatt Van Der Lee, a 6th grader at Iao Intermediate School, won first place in the middle school category of the ʻImi Pono Challenge for his Maui “Vertical” Greenhouses project.

The Maui County Council announced the student winners of the ‘Imi Pono Challenge at the Jan. 15 Council meeting.

The Council initiated the ‘Imi Pono Challenge for middle school and high school students to harness bold and innovative ideas for bolstering Maui County’s economy. A diverse panel of industry, community and entrepreneurial leaders chose 40 semi-finalists from 175 entries by students across the county.  

Winners in the middle school category:

  • Wyatt Van Der Lee, Grade 6, Iao Intermediate School (1st Place) for his project titled “Maui (Vertical) Greenhouses.”
  • Xavier Katsuda, Grade 6, Iao Intermediate School (2nd Place) for his project titled “Sprinkley Sprinklers”
  • Kiana Kahale and Evalani Keawekane, Grade 8, Kamehameha Schools Maui Middle School (3rd Place) for their project titled “Maoli Loa”
Jacob Janikowski, a 10th grader at Lānaʻi High & Elementary School, won second place in the high school category of the ʻImi Pono Challenge for his “Home Learning Desks” project.

Winners in the high school category:

  • Noelle Lo, Grade 11, Maui High School (1st Place) for her project titled “A Local Lens.” Her plan is to create a local show created by students to showcase and provide advertising for Maui small businesses.
  • Jacob Janikowski, Grade 10, Lānaʻi High & Elementary School (2nd Place) for his project titled “Home Learning Desks”
  • Michael de Haas, Grade 12, Kīhei Charter School (3rd Place) for his project titled “Imi Pono Feeds Maui”

“The ‘Imi Pono Challenge gave us just a glimpse of the innovation and diligence of Maui County students and the teachers who guide and encourage them,” Council Chair Alice Lee said.  “While there are many challenges ahead for our community, it’s inspiring to know our young people have what it takes to meet them.”

Information on the ‘Imi Pono Challenge and the winning projects can be found at


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