Our Islands, Our Future

Kihei Charter High School technology and engineering teacher Evelyn Zayas intended to use a Ke Alahele Education Fund grant to expose her students to electronics, but they received much more as she was able to leverage her grant to get more than $1,000 in store credit to buy more equipment. “I wanted a fun, hands-on way to introduce my students to the world of electronics, and to learn a bit of computer programming to make the electronics do cool things,” she said.

It didn’t take long for the initiative to have an effect in the classroom. “The impact on the students was immediately evident,” Zayas said. “The boys, and especially the girls, were at first apprehensive when they saw the kits filled with electronic components that they knew nothing about. The kits contained ‘inventor guides’ that provided enough instruction and pictures so that the students could complete the projects on their own after brief instructions from me. To watch them complete the projects and then modify the computer programs to make the electronics work, such as lighting LEDs or making the buzzer play a song – the looks of pride on their faces were priceless.” Zayas said teaching science, technology, engineering and math yields an “authentic, useful education that requires students to use both their minds and their bodies to learn how the world around them works. A STEM education can provide the hands-on, thought-provoking activities and projects that lead to authentic, useful education.”

With the Maui Economic Development Board Ke Alahele grant, Zayas was able to buy 20 Sparkfun electronics inventors’ kits. Sparkfun ran a national contest and as a final project for the quarter, Zayas had the students work in pairs to create a unique project for the contest. “We were ecstatic to learn a pair of girls won first place in the contest, and two pairs of boys took 5th and 10th place,” she said. The contest winnings gave Zayas and her students $1,050 worth of store credit at From there, she bought more electronics. To learn more about the Ke Alahele Education Fund, visit