Our Islands, Our Future

04-11-12 STEM Conference 2012The third annual Hawaii STEM Conference drew 200-plus teachers and students to Maui and kicked off the state’s first Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Week. King Kekaulike High School teacher Emily Haines Swatek was grateful for the opportunity, bringing 10 students to the event held in Wailea in late March. “It’s so great to be exposed to all these different options in technology,” she said. This year’s conference brought students in from more than a dozen intermediate and high schools, teachers, parents, community and business members together with innovative companies including Google, National Geographic and Apple.

For many of the Hawaii STEM Conference attendees, this was their first experience at a regional technology conference complete with STEM breakout sessions, software competitions, an on-site 3C’s Digital Media competition and exhibits. Haines Swatek said the conference provided her a chance to learn more about what she can bring to the classroom. Amongst the things she’s prepared to use almost immediately from the conference are online Web design resources, ideas for 3-D modeling with the use of Google Earth, and online book publishing. “It’s amazing, there are so many things we can do,” she said. Her student, Lotus Chen, also found the conference beneficial. “I feel like it’s broadened my horizons,” Chen said. “There certainly was a lot to explore here.”

The 2012 Hawaii STEM Conference was sponsored by MEDB’s Women in Technology project in partnership with the County of Maui, and the Office of the State Director for Career and Technical Education. Haines Swatek said she expects to have “more inspired, more engaged” students now that they’ve been able to learn with other students from around Maui County and the state. “They’re fired up when they come back from something like this,” she said. Emily Schell of National Geographic also praised the event, “Hawaii educators and students have it going on! The stars are truly bright.”