6th Annual Hawaii STEM Conference expands state’s community of STEM advocates


The 6th Annual Hawaii STEM Conference, held this past weekend (April 17-18) once again lived up to its reputation as the state’s premiere Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) conference for students and educators. Presented by Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Women in Technology (WIT) project, the event attracted more than 500 attendees who explored the many benefits of STEM learning, showcased some of the best programs and projects, and expanded Hawaii community of experiential STEM advocates.

Fittingly, the event’s impact is shown by its numbers:

  • 350 student participants, 100 teachers accessed professional development, and 75 industry professionals provided mentoring and career awareness

  • 30+ schools and organizations statewide participated

  • 32 student breakout sessions were held

  • 12 STEM competitions were offered

  • 150 laptops and iPads were used in interactive technology training sessions

But the impact of the conference can’t be conveyed by just numbers, it was the personal development and empowerment that many event attendees experienced and will carry with them way beyond the Conference.

“It’s all about engaging our students and educators through interactive STEM learning,” said WIT Program Director Isla Young. “We strive to make the conference experience unique each year. Whether it’s adding fresh program content, introducing new technologies, bringing in prominent speakers, offering network opportunities or opening one’s eyes to possible careers – it all adds up to an empowering STEM experience.”

“Everyone realizes how important technology is in their lives and coming here to the conference, we get to see how it all works and how we can apply it in our lives,” said King Kekaulike High School senior Coleson Costales.

For the Molokai Middle School husband and wife team of STEM teachers Kaeo and Kahoiwai Kawaa, the STEM Conference gave them a chance to showcase their program and their students’ work. “We want them to learn how they can affect not only their lives but the lives of others,” Mrs. Kawaa said.

Molokai 8th-grader Evelyn Haase said she’s enjoyed traveling to the Hawaii STEM Conference to share her love for science and the projects her team of STEM classmates have accomplished. The students developed and presented six-feet-tall displays that outlined their STEM projects. For example, there were photographs from Family Night they organized to engaged grade school aged Molokai youngsters to build mini-robots and engage in friendly competitions. “Robotics really embodies all of STEM,” Haase said. “There’s science, there’s math and a lot of problem solving. I loved working with younger students. They really get to it and I just love it.”

Beth Conroy-Humphrey, a former teacher who serves as the counselor for middle and high school students on Lanai, brought a contingent of six to the conference.

“MEDB is a huge financial STEM supporter but what’s even more important is that their conference is student centered,” said Conroy-Humphrey. “Everything is about and for the students. It’s about getting them excited about science, about math, about technology and about engineering. This conference is awesome!”

Among the highlights this year were presentations by keynote speakers: Titan Gilroy of Titan Manufacturing; Erika Bergman, Co-founder of GEECs (Girls Engineering and Exploration Counselors) and National Geographic Explorer; and Lauren Thompson of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

Winners were also announced for this year’s competitions:

On-Site Video Competition

Yasha Ronquillo and Tifany Banggo

Maui High School


Royer Studios PSA Onsite Animation Competition – LIVE

Julie Rasos, Allyza Sayno, Danielle Tadeo, Roxanne Agtang

Maui High School


Royer Studios PSA Onsite Animation Competition – LIVE

Kevin Liu, William Li, Marlene Tana, Abigail Olipani

Roosevelt High School


On-Site CAD Competition

Christian Fillazar, Brendan Geffe, Ryan Laberinto and Elenar Rasos

Maui High School


On-Site Hackathon Competition

Jeremie Amano, Gabriel Rayburn and Wyatt Roan

King Kekaulike High School


CAD Showcase Application Competition

Brendan Geffe

Maui High School


Game Design Competition

Tommy Nguyen, Chandelle Oliver & Natasha Bandack

Roosevelt High School


GIS – Storytelling with Maps Competition

Saba Rehman, Kiaben Capelle, Kai Kanae, Hua Yi Li

Roosevelt High School


Music Competition

Carl Tanabe

Roosevelt High School


Poster Design Competition

Jan Erwin Bio

Maui High School


T-Shirt Design Competition

Julia Kimoto

Baldwin High School


Web Design Competition

Dylan Franco, Andrew Rezac

King Kekaulike High School


Project Impact Assessment Competition

Maya Ooki, Alesha Menor, Jeremie Amano

King Kekaulike High School


“Mahalo to all our student participants and conference competitors, and to the teachers who inspire them day in and day out to work toward a future in STEM,” said MEDB’s Isla Young. “The STEM Conference was made possible through the generosity of sponsors who see the great promise in our youth and want them to succeed. We’re all looking forward to next year’s event!”

The 2015 event sponsors were: U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Naval Research, US Department of Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, County of Maui, Hawaii P20, MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund, MicrosoftOpTerra Energy ServicesDaniel K. Inouye InstituteTrimble SketchUp, Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, NASA, Maui High School Arts and Communication (ACOM), National Geographic, DevLeague, Ben Franklin Crafts/Ace Hardware by HouseMart, King Kekaulike High School, 3D Innovations, Hawaii Geographic Information Coordinating Council (HIGICC), Esri, Camp CenterStage, Elemental Minds, State of Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Goma Games, Searider Productions, STEM Pre-Academy, UH Hilo SDAV, The Janus Group, Relativity Education, Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), The Nature Conservancy, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii Maui College, University of Hawaii Manoa College of Engineering, University of Hawaii Hilo College, and University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Maui High School seniors Brendan Gaffe and Marston Lau are veterans of the STEM Conference, having attended the event for three straight years. Both say they’re very interested in a career in engineering.

“This conference really gives you a lot of interactive opportunities and allows us to think about what we might want to do in the future,” said Gaffe, who’s considering one day opening his own business. “One hundred percent I didn’t know much about STEM and now I see myself doing something in the field,” Lau added.

“Ultimately that’s what this Conference is all about – creating opportunities and pathways for our youth to succeed in the future,” said Young.

For more information on the Hawaii STEM Conference, visit http://womenintech.com/HawaiiSTEMConference or contact WIT Program Director Isla Young at isla@medb.org or 808-250-2888.