Our Islands, Our Future

Eleventh-grader Cheska Liwag never dreamed of a career in engineering until she enrolled in the Maui High School robotics program. Robotics has been at the heart of many opportunities for Cheska, one of 45 students at Maui High immersed in robotics and in competitions across the county and in the state. “Robotics has helped me to grow and make new friends. I’ve learned a lot about team work and what it takes to compete,” Liwag said. The Maui High School Robotics Program is one of a dozen recipients receiving grants totaling more than $51,000 in the final quarter of 2011. Funding comes from the Maui Economic Development Board’s Ke Alahele Education Fund.

The latest distribution of funds has gone to support a variety of programs that encourage hands-on experiences and learning in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. The money enables students to compete in state robotics tournaments, provides professional development for teachers and helps to procure needed equipment for various projects in science and technology. For Maui High, the grant money has been the means to compete at the upcoming Pan Pacific tournament on Oahu. Liwag serves as captain on a team of six students from her school. “We’re excited,” she said.

Among others receiving grants this past quarter are:
Molokai Robotics (FIRST Lego League), $4,991; to support three teams from Kaunakakai Elementary and Kualapu’u Elementary schools to compete in a Maui tournament, as well as robotics equipment and supplies.
Kalama Intermediate School PLUG-INN project (Problem- Based Learning Using Geodatabases: Innovative Native Network), $5,000; for STEM collaboration between Kalama students and schools in Alaska, including shoreline field trips, use of GIS wireless technologies, and shared collaborative data analysis.
Maui Navigators (FIRST Lego League), $3,655; for robotics equipment and supplies for Central Maui robotics club for 9-14 year olds.
Hawaii State Science Olympiad, $5,000; for participation by approximately 200 students from 10 Maui County schools in statewide hands-on, team-based science competition and program.
Iao School VEX Robotics program, $3,989; for competition by middle school team at VEX competition at the Maui Fair and regional tournament on Oahu.