Critics of astronomy often complain that the discoveries made on Mauna Kea only benefit a few select scientists. Proponents of astronomy, on the other hand, often cite its benefits to our community in economic terms. Both arguments fail to appreciate the growing influence that science plays on the quality of education available to our youth.
For example, Waiakea Intermediate School seventh grader Anne Nakamoto's science fair project set on Mauna Kea captured first place honors at the State Science and Technology Fair on Oahu in April. Anne had received the support of former MKMB member Ron Terry, Mauna Kea entomology specialist Dr. Jesse Eiben, and OMKM Natural Resources Program Manager Fritz Klasner.
Shortly after that, UH Hilo physics and astronomy students Robert Pipes and Jordan Bledsoe were selected to participate in prestigious national internships. Robert was awarded the National Undergraduate Fellowship through the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). Jordan was chosen to participate in a 10-week summer internship at the Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket, Mass.
Team Poliahu Wins 2013 U.S. Imagine Cup
Headed to Worldwide Finals in Russia
Most recently, a student team from UH Hilo beat out finalists from Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas, Chicago, Florida State, Harvard, Rice and Boston universities to win the 2013 U.S. Imagine Cup. The Imagine Cup, sponsored by Microsoft Corp., is considered the world's premier student technology competition.
2013 U.S. Imagine Cup Winning Team Poli'ahu
Mike Purvis, Ryder Donahue, Kayton Summers and Wallace Hamada
The winning Hawaii project began as a concept developed by UHH's Dr. Don Thomas, who serves on OMKM's Environment Committee, and OMKM's Fritz Klasner. They proposed developing a software app that could track native and invasive plant species using smart phones and GPS functionality. Don made contact with the UHH computer class taught by Keith Edwards, where a team of students comprised of Mike Purvis, Ryder Donahue, Kayton Summers and Wallace Hamada chose OMKM as their "client" for the class competition.
Dubbing themselves Team Poliahu, the students then decided to develop their class project into an Imagine Cup submission. Working very hard, they transformed the software application into a disaster response app that they renamed HelpMeHelp, which allows users to share photos and information about hazards they may encounter in emergencies such as fires, floods, earthquakes or hurricanes.
Team Poliahu will represent the United States in the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July.
Not only do these shining examples speak to the academic excellence of our youth, but they also help to refute claims that the science that takes place on Mauna Kea does not affect people's daily lives. Here we can see how motivated youngsters can in fact contribute to the health and well-being of society-not just here in Hawaii, but around the world.