Our Islands, Our Future
Maui Waena Soars to Excellence

Maui Waena Soars to Excellence

Maui Waena Intermediate School, a Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) STEMworks™ (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Program participant, won big in the largest student video competition in the nation. Thirty two Maui Waena students attended the 2023 Student Television Network (STN) convention in Long Beach, California over spring break. They competed against students from digital media programs around the nation, taking home 12 awards after participating in 11 on-site competitions and one pre-contest. Their weekly show, Falcon Features, was awarded an outstanding rank, coming in second among all entries.

“Maui Waena students always work very hard to prepare for STN, and always do well,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “They, along with their STEMworks teacher Jennifer Suzuki, deserve acknowledgement for their efforts and quality productions. Congratulations!”

STN was started in 1999 by a group of teachers who wanted to support and encourage scholastic broadcasting and to provide a forum for students to share ideas, ask questions, and learn from professionals in the industry. Over the past 20 years, STN has expanded to include film, multimedia and other forms of communication taught in grades 6-12 in middle and high schools across the nation. 

Suzuki recalled, “For the past 12 years, MEDB has supported our after-school program and has helped to provide countless experiences and opportunities for our students. “This year’s STN convention was just the most recent. It also happened to be our most winning year yet! It was almost embarrassing when they kept calling our name, but the students put in hundreds of hours of practice and on Sunday, March 19, it all paid off. I think the most important thing that they learned was that if you put in the time and effort, it doesn’t matter if someone has better gear, telling the story is all that matters.”

Maui Waena student and news anchor Capriana Nozaki added, “The STN trip taught me how to be a good leader, how to communicate effectively, and how to stay organized. But above all, I got to connect and bond with people who work hard and share the same interest. I will never forget this experience!” 

STN was a wonderful opportunity for the students. They had extra excursions and got to network with over 2,500 students. I’m so proud of them! Jennifer Suzuki, Maui Waena, Media Teacher, Coordinator STEMworks AFTERschool Program

Introducing Girls to Engineering

Introducing Girls to Engineering

Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) STEMworks™ recently led its 21st annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGED). Held in conjunction with National Engineering Week, IGED helps to build and strengthen Hawaii’s workforce by encouraging girls, women, and underrepresented groups into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education and careers.

“Virtually every field in every sector of the economy is needing STEM professionals—people who are literate and fluent in various technology subjects,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “To meet this need, STEMworks empowers our youth to be self-directed learners, to be resilient, to stay current and be adaptive to change, and, most importantly, to have the confidence that they can succeed.”

Designed to create interest in the field of engineering, IGED inspired over 50 middle-school-aged girls from across Maui County to pursue engineering and technology careers and raised awareness of the contributions engineers make to the community. “This memorable day-long event included an educational video showcasing the various types of engineering careers, as well as a fun, hands-on engineering activity,” said Katie Taladay, STEMworks Program Manager. “It is important for STEMworks to provide and develop innovative community-based events, such as IGED, which are designed to plan for Hawaii’s future generations.”

Due to the global pandemic, this year the IGED event was virtual, free, and open to 6th – 8th grade girls. The agenda included a welcome with helpful information about STEM opportunities, and panel discussions followed by breakout sessions with female engineers and female students majoring in engineering. The speakers shared the pathway into their careers, role models they had, and challenges they faced. Each participant who registered ahead of time was mailed a kit to create a robot circuit popup card.During this activity, students learned about the engineering design process, simple circuits and problem solving.

Wilkins added, “STEMworks continues to train students as well as teachers in industry-standard software and engineering design practices using hands-on curriculum, regional conferences, and workshops. We work with educators, industry partners and the community to build a thriving STEM education-to-workforce pipeline throughout Hawaii. We are making a difference!”

The Mayor of Maui made an official proclamation for February 25th to be IGED Day for Maui County. Ashely Otomo, a professional civil engineer; Alyza Leyva, a student from Maui Waena; and I met the mayor to accept the proclamation

Leslie Wilkins, MEDB, President and CEO
AG Internship Showcase

AG Internship Showcase

Through the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) STEMworks™ Ag Business & Technology Internship program, students in grades 9-12 and college undergraduates have the opportunity to gain experience in multiple industries within the agriculture sector of the economy to find their interests, build their resume, and become career ready.

“During this time, our STEMworks interns are busy using industry-standard technologies to develop a service-learning project to improve their community,” said Britney James, STEMworks Agriculture Program Specialist. “The program is designed to prepare students with real-world, hands-on career exposure, college and employability skill-building opportunities, and industry networking experiences. Along the way, interns worked tirelessly on creative and critical thinking as well as their professional and software skills.”

James added, “The students who participated in the recent Internship Program gained many workforce readiness skills, including time management, having to balance full-time school and the internship. Some of them even had a second job! They are all exceptional individuals and I am excited to say that many of them now plan to pursue careers in agriculture after participating in this internship.”

“The showcase featured 11 interns from seven host companies with eight mentors,” explained Aileen Kim, Baldwin High School 9th grader. “I interned at WaiPono Farm at the University of Hawaii Maui College Sustainable Living Institute where I learned aquaponics and hydroponics greenhouse. During this time, I was able to raise tilapia fish and grow community resources, while also learning about the systems which help create a healthy life for both our fish and plants. Our greenhouse grows community resources such as bok choy, lettuce, tomatoes and zucchini, and shares these resources with others.” 

Lei’ohu Turley, Seabury Hall 11th grader, reflected on her experience, “My internship was at Noho’ana Farm, an energy self-sufficient, family-run farm situated on two acres of kuleana (privileged responsibility) land. Along with kalo, other important Hawaiian crops are cultivated at the farm using traditional, sustainable, and organic farming practices. I learned about irrigation and water resource management, using farm equipment, and planting and harvesting crops. Now, I also have a deeper appreciation for cultural values and environmental issues.”

I hope to continue my internship. Mahalo to STEMworks and Noho’ana Farm for this opportunity! Lei’ohu Turley, Seabury Hall student

Student Space Exploration Day

Student Space Exploration Day

One hundred and fifty middle school students and their STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) educators were welcomed by the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference on September 30 at the Wailea Beach Resort-Marriott. The conference and the Space Exploration Student Session, presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) thrilled attendees who got to meet astronaut Scott “Scooter” Altman and experience hands-on, space-related presentations by the AMOS exhibitors.

Altman, a retired United States Navy Captain and naval aviator, engineer, test pilot and former NASA astronaut, is a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions. Before retiring from NASA, his final mission was servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. He is also known for his aerial acrobatics in the 1986 Top Gun movie with Tom Cruise.

“It is an honor to be here at AMOS,” Altman said. “I like to engage with students because it’s important that we connect with the next generation and get them interested in space-related issues. The students in this age group are our future. Maybe someone here today will be the first one on Mars.”

‘Iolani Kuoha, Vice-Principal of Molokai Middle School, noted, “To greet astronaut Altman, our students performed an oli lei presentation traditionally given to honor visitors. They enjoyed all of the different companies at AMOS, and the various careers they represent. They will go back to the classroom so inspired by all of today’s activities.” 

Healohameleleināhōkū Merino, Moloka’i Middle School 8th grade, said, “The exhibits and experiments inspired me to learn more about the world and what I can do to improve it. I really enjoyed the flight simulator at Civil Air Patrol too!”

Kaimalie Stone, Molokai Middle School student, added, “Astronaut Altman showed us a video of his time in space and explained how dangerous space debris is for the Space Station and other satellites. At the SAIC STEM Project in the exhibit hall, we learned there is so much man-made debris floating around that can cause problems for astronauts, satellites, and other important pieces of equipment circling Earth. It made me realize my generation is also responsible for making space safe.”

From space, the earth is an incredible organism. I saw the edge of the horizon. The thin blue line, the atmosphere, holding everything that keeps us alive. It brought on feelings of stewardship, sustainability, and respect for the planet.

Scott Altman, U.S. Navy Capt., NASA Astronaut, retired
STEMworks Ag Business & Technology Internships

STEMworks Ag Business & Technology Internships

For more than two decades, Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) has worked with local industry partners to provide internships. Two years ago, STEMworks™ focused on the Agriculture sector to expand its work-based learning experiences for students and since then, with its partners, the program has delivered a highly successful Ag Business and Technology Internship program. This has consistently aligned the abilities and interests of Hawaii’s students with industry professionals throughout the islands. The experiences continue to provide invaluable work-based learning for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) students not only to explore career pathways, but also to assess job opportunities. As a project-based, service-learning initiative, STEMworks is an innovative and hands-on STEM educational approach designed to produce critical thinkers and problem-solvers.

“With regard to the Ag Program, I think it is important for everyone to understand where food, clothing, and other everyday items come from and that they should thank a farmer or rancher,” said Britney James, STEMworks Program Specialist. “Without agriculture, our future is bleak, which only drives my passion to encourage keiki to consider the various Ag careers available to them. To keep Hawaii’s agricultural industries strong and sustainable, we need to engage our youth in experiential learning within Ag. Only then can we grow our future leaders. Along the way, interns work tirelessly on their professional and software skills.”

Kahenawai Hirata, Molokai High School, noted, “I am currently interning at Sust’āinable Molokai where I learned that we have to re-prioritize the meaning of ‘consumption’. We live on an island surrounded by ocean and import about 90 percent of our food and goods. We need to be self-sufficient. Understanding our island’s resources and how our environment is changing is important for our future needs. To become responsible and sustainable farmers of the land and sea, we, as the next generation, need to get involved!”

Ag Intern alumnus Drake Breitback, a recent Baldwin High School graduate, said, “I learned so much from my internship with Native Nursery. I worked a great deal with native plants and discovered how to take cuttings from plants, how to prune, propagate, and properly water them, how to correctly transplant them into bigger pots, and how to identify different native species. My future hope is to give back to the community in a helpful and sustainable way.”

Internships are available for fall, spring, and summer semesters with participating STEMworks schools. For more information, email

Britney James, STEMworks Program Specialist
STEMworks™ Solutions Challenge

STEMworks™ Solutions Challenge

Maui Economic Development Board STEMworks™ partnered with Mahi Pono, a Maui-based farming company, to present the 2022 STEMworks Solutions Challenge. The STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics)-related problem was open to all Hawaii high school and undergraduate college students to solve. It offered a $500 cash prize plus a summer internship with Mahi Pono, where the recipient will implement his or her winning solution, and through research and experiments, have the opportunity to improve their proposed design. 

“As a company committed to a more sustainable and secure future for Maui, we know that getting the next generation involved is critical, and this is one way we are able to do that,” said Shan Tsutsui, Chief Operating Officer with Mahi Pono. “These are real-world challenges we deal with in local agriculture, so we are excited to see what our participating students come up with.” 

This year’s challenge, to overcome the effects of wind on citrus trees, including tree damage, soil erosion and dust production, sought solutions for how to keep fruit trees upright with little or no windbreak, and how to mitigate dust clouds from lack of ground cover. The event kicked off with weekly professional development meetings with Mahi Pono experts. After being briefed on the goal of the project, students submitted their proposals via PowerPoint slides accompanied by a recorded video presentation.  

First-place winner, Edwin Barrett from King Kekaulike High School explained his proposal. “My solution comes in two phases. The first phase is planting a cover crop of white clover because it is a very durable and effective way to stop the majority of dirt pollution. Also, it provides many benefits to the soil such as increasing nitrogen levels which were notably low according to the soil sample and prevents wind erosion, its main benefit. Additionally, it would encourage pollination of the plant and the citrus trees and offer a possible future business venture with Maui beekeepers. Secondly, my unique designs for a solar windbreak will keep trees upright, stop the blowing of dirt even further, and achieve a muti-purpose function by combining solar and wind technologies.” 

My goal, to solve the problems of dust pollution and tree sustainability, was to also explore how modern technology can be implemented to have a positive impact on Maui’s farming and agricultural community. I am looking forward to my summer internship.

Edwin Barrett, King Kekaulike High School
All Things Stem

All Things Stem

The 13th Annual Hawaii STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Conference is almost here! After two years of hosting the Conference virtually, Maui Economic Development Board, (MEDB) is extremely excited to be returning to the Hawaii Convention Center for the 13th iteration of their celebration of ‘All Things STEM’. The event, being held on Friday, April 29th , is open to all STEMworks™ facilitators and high school students.

“MEDB is thrilled to see the students in-person this year,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “We are easing back into an in-person event as we continue to help build career readiness skills. Our hope is that by equipping our youth with the right skills, tools, and opportunities, we can inspire the next generation of innovators, ensuring a bright future for our community and our world.”

MEDB’s STEMworks students and teachers, along with community and business leaders across the state, are invited to celebrate the student’s service-learning projects, hear stories of inspiration, engage with some of the biggest names in the STEM field, and experience the excitement of a regional technology conference. The students will showcase their analytical thinking skills and apply the latest high-tech industry tools in an innovative approach to environmental and cultural issues.

Katie Taladay, MEDB Director of Education and Workforce Development, STEMworks, noted, “We will have hands-on professional development opportunities for teachers and students, industry networking sessions, and a STEM Playground. We welcome our teachers, students, and industry professionals back in-person for a full day of hands-on training opportunities, mentoring and networking with leading industry professionals. This year, we will bring folks together from many sectors including Computer Science, IT, Cybersecurity, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Creative Media, including Film and Video Game Design, Geospatial Sciences, Engineering, Energy Science, Health Sciences, and much more. There will also be time to celebrate and honor our STEM talent from across the state by awarding the coveted STEMMYS.”

Wilkins added, “STEM education has the power to improve all of our lives. The Hawaii STEM Conference creates meaningful learning experiences to enrich the lives of Hawaii’s students today and into the future.”

STEMworks initiatives focus on empowering students with 21st century skills to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.

Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO
Lucy Satellite Captivates Maui Teens

Lucy Satellite Captivates Maui Teens

Two budding astronomers, and Maui Economic Development Board STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) students, freshmen Wilson Chau and Holden Suzuki from Maui High School continue to hone their skills at solving the mysteries of the universe. Recently, Chau and Suzuki observed NASA’s Lucy spacecraft on its journey to visit several Trojan asteroids. The Valley Isle teens used the Faulkes Telescope North on Haleakala, part of the Las Cumbres Observatory global network of telescopes, to make the observations.

“On the day of launch, I was viewing the NASA livestream,” Chau said. “It was incredible seeing the trajectory pass the livestream’s viewing point. The ambitious Lucy mission’s primary targets are eight Trojan asteroids, primitive asteroids that share Jupiter’s orbit and could shed light on the formation of the solar system. Before arriving at its destination, the spacecraft will make three passes near Earth for gravitational boosts, and visit the main-belt asteroid 52246 Donaldjohanson.”

Chau and Suzuki are not new to studying spacecraft. In 2018, their observations of the famous SpaceX Tesla launch earned them top awards at science and engineering fairs at both the county and state level. “Doing this current work with Lucy is a great way to merge all of our previous work,” Suzuki explained. “When we found out that our data was helping scientists, I felt star-struck. It really makes me feel good thinking that even a kid like me whose family is not particularly wealthy can make a huge difference and really help people who change the world.” The pair plan to use the data they have obtained on Lucy as the foundation for their entry in the 2022 Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair.

Chau and Suzuki intend to pursue science-focused studies and future careers in the field. Chau dreams of working in STEM and Suzuki aspires to a career in astrophysics. Both aim to study exoplanets and asteroids. Chau noted, “Astronomy has always excited my mindset for the endless possibilities that could be discovered in the vast area of space as well as being able to learn great science all around.”

In May 2021 our observations of the defunct Orbiting Geophysical Observatory satellite, OGO-1, received national media attention. Plus, along with our mentor Dr. J. D. Armstrong and classmate Jed Teagarden, we appeared on the Xploration Awesome Planet television series

Wilson Chau and Holden Suzuki, Maui High School freshmen
Maui TechOhana: An Entrepreneur’s Journey

Maui TechOhana: An Entrepreneur’s Journey

Maui resident Alex Fielding, Privateer Space CEO and Chairman, was the most recent guest speaker in Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Maui TechOhana virtual event series. Supported by the County of Maui and MEDB, the TechOhana events provide unique learning experiences and informal networking opportunities for anyone interested in Maui’s County’s technology industry. The virtual meeting had the advantage of breakout rooms to encourage information sharing and social interaction amongst the participants. 

“MEDB continues to be a leader in our business community by providing local entrepreneurs and small-business owners the practical knowledge, skills and resources they need to aim high and succeed.” said Frank De Rego, Jr., Director of Business Development Projects for MEDB. “We at MEDB are thrilled to introduce Alex Fielding to the Maui tech community and thank him for his generosity in talking story with us as friends and colleagues.” 

Fielding discussed his journey of self-discovery as a “techie” and entrepreneur. His resume includes work at Cisco, Apple and NASA, followed by his own company Ripcord specializing in the field of robotic scanning and digitization. Currently, his new company, Privateer Space, is developing new green space technologies and creating the first accurate map of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO). Fielding hopes to identify, assess and track debris among the thousands of satellites in LEO.

 “The dangers of space junk remain all too present,” Fielding explained. “In May, astronauts aboard the International Space Station discovered a five millimeter-wide hole in a robotic arm attached to one of the modules. Privateer Space has just begun working with Astroscale, an orbital logistics and servicing startup that is the first to successfully demonstrate a space junk removal satellite, and we have also signed a partnership with the U.S. Space Force. I am eager to help build Maui County’s technology business ecosystem while tackling issues of global importance.”

Regular Maui TechOhana participant Joe Breman, President and CEO of International Underwater Exploration, reflected, “MEDB’s Maui TechOhana provides leadership and vision in our community for the development of a strong and diversified economy. The collaborative efforts and networking have immensely helped me improve my business.”

Privateer Space has received all necessary approvals to launch its first satellite, Pono 1, in February 2022, followed by Pono 2 in April.

Alex Fielding, Privateer Space