Our Islands, Our Future

Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Women in Technology Program (WIT) recently presented their 2nd Introduce a Girl to Astronomy Day (IGAD) for Maui girls, grades 7-8. For the past decade, MEDB and WIT have been at the forefront of providing cutting-edge STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs across the state to meet 21st century workforce demands. “IGAD stimulates girls’ interest in astronomy as a viable and exciting career choice that requires STEM education,” said WIT Project Manager Mapu Quitazol. “It’s important to expose our girls to endless STEM opportunities and build their confidence level to know they can achieve their dreams.”

Dr. J. D. Armstrong, Maui Technology Education and Outreach Specialist at University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, agreed, “It is important to develop future leaders in our planning for Maui’s future. For example, during IGAD the students learned about the Faulkes Telescope North, a two-meter-aperture telescope that can be accessed over the internet by any students in Hawaii and globally for their science projects. Owned and operated by Las Cumbres Observatory, this unique worldwide network of robotic telescopes engages students in real science via their computers. They become active participants in a range of astronomical research projects, from observations of the solar system to distant stars and galaxies.”

Krystle Dunn, science teacher from Lahaina Intermediate, said, “I was impressed by the variety of information that students got to take in: astronomy, satellites, telescopes and hands-on activities with sensors. One of my students learned that being a part of the Air Force doesn’t always mean you have to be in combat–you can be involved through technology and other STEM fields. Many students made connections that might directly impact their future decisions.”

Jaycie Iha, Maui Waena Intermediate student, concluded, “I’m so grateful to MEDB and WIT for this chance to learn more about astronomy and engineering. IGAD was such an extraordinary and valuable experience. After visiting the observatories, I see there are opportunities for girls on Maui to reach for the stars!”

Seventy-five middle school girls from Maui County enjoyed learning about optics by touring the Maui Surveillance Space System facilities atop Haleakala.

Mapu Quitazol, MEDB WIT Program Director