Our Islands, Our Future

Maui students compete in the First Lego League VEX competition

Our children today are more sophisticated at younger ages. They are using advanced technology in their classrooms and are setting directions for themselves even before they enter middle school. To keep up with this trend, building skills in STEM needs to begin at an earlier age.

A recent study by an MIT Aerospace Engineering assistant professor, Dr. Annlisa Weigel, reinforces that point. Weigel’s report, “Survey of Aerospace Student Attitudes,” analyzes causes of a shortage of aerospace engineers.

One element stands out: two-thirds of the engineering students reported they became interested in their career choice before they were teenagers. Weigel found 35 % of the students developed an interest in aerospace engineering when they were 5 to 9 years old; 27% at 10 to 13.

Her study focused on aerospace engineers. But her findings on recruiting students validate the significance of programs that introduce students to STEM at an early age, such as the FIRST LEGO League Robotics programs for students beginning in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Half of the 10 Ke Alahele grants awarded to Maui Robotics programs in 2010-11 were to elementary and intermediate school LEGO League teams.

The MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund is just one of multiple MEDB programs that work to nurture STEM skills in our students. Whether that foundation inspires a student to create the next IPad app for telemedicine, to become the best EV mechanic on Maui, to improve water resources or to grow our own food cost effectively, a STEM education broadens the life-long options for our children.

Fund The Journey

Help to empower Maui County’s youth by joining us for “A Pathway to Our Future” benefit dinner and auction which supports the MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund.

Held at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa on Saturday, August 27th, the event will headline Distinguished Educators U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, his wife Ms. Irene Hirano and Mayor Alan Arakawa and his wife Ann. The Reception will begin at 4:30 pm with hand-on activities for guests and a silent auction; followed by dinner and a live auction at 6:30 pm.

Sponsorships are available and event tickets are $150 per person. For reservations or for more information, contact Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. at 808-875-2300 or visit

Grantees Progress Report

Fund recipients have been working hard on various STEM-related programs. Here’s a look at their progress.

4-H Dirt Devils

The 4-H Dirt Devils scored big during the 60th annual National Land and Range Judging Contest in Oklahoma City. Members tested their individual and team skills against teams from 38 states evaluating land characteristics (topsoil, subsoil slope and plant life). Team member Tyler Yamada was named National Champion in the Homesite Evaluation, Individual category.  In Land Judging 4-H competition, the 4-H Dirt Devils team of Ashley Malek, Devin Vinoray, Jared Shimada and Taylor Hori placed fourth.  Ashley Malek placed 8th in the individual category.

4th grade class at Kula Elementary

4th grade class at Kula Elementary

This past semester, students in Mrs. Gordon’s 4th grade class at Kula Elementary learned how to properly care for their new microscopes, and also worked on identifying and comparing animal cells and plant cells, and identifying protozoa: ameba, paramecium, and euglena.

During the 2nd Annual Maui District Arts and Communication Performance Based Assessment on April 28-29 at UH Maui College, 12 Teams from Baldwin High, Hana High, King Kekaulike High, Maui High, Maui Waena Intermediate and Molokai High competed to create an advertising campaign for a program at UHMC. A five student team from Maui High took first place honors. The winning team included Ryan Bartolome, Kaizzer Fernandez, Eli-Ana Dickson, Aaron Lopez and Regina Prudenciano.