Hackathons Inspired by Polynesian Voyaging Society

Our friends at STEMworks™ Hawaiʻi have announced the 10th Annual Hawaiʻi STEM Conference that highlights three fast-paced “Hackathons” to be held on May 1 & 2, 2019. Inspired in part by Hōkūleʻa and the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the event will challenge student teams to make a social, cultural and environmental impact.

PVS master navigator Nainoa Thompson will be one of the key note speakers during the two-day conference that is presented by STEMworks™, a statewide initiative of Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB).

Details of these hackathons are as follows:


Singer/songwriter Henry Kapono. Photo by Henry Kapono Foundation SINGER/SONGWRITER HENRY KAPONO. PHOTO BY HENRY KAPONO FOUNDATION

In this hack, students will be challenged to create a voyaging song that embodies the spirit of Polynesian Voyaging Society’s mission to bring together nations from around the Pacific and world in peace and to raise awareness for the oceans and environment.

Students will learn about basic recording techniques and gain songwriting pointers from the industry professionals and Hawaii’s cultural legends.

The challenge will begin with keynote speaker Nainoa Thompson, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, explaining the mission and theme of the upcoming voyages. He’ll speak to the beauty of Hawaii’s culture; the arts; and the infusion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to inspire these young song creators.

According to Isla Young, STEMworks™ Director of STEM Education and Workforce Development, “Nainoa will challenge students to inspire others to help protect the oceans and bring our global community closer together through shared understanding and cultural exchange. He will also challenge them to craft a message for their generation that learning can be much more than sitting in a classroom. That you can make your learning an adventure and chart your own path with opportunities like this conference to blend arts, culture, STEM and your creativity to build a better future for yourself and others.”

Student teams will then shape a rough melody and first draft lyrics. With support from the Henry Kapono Foundation and Mana Maoli; singer/songwriter Henry Kapono, Mana Mele engineer Kelli Cruz and Punahou School music teacher James Anshutz will be on hand to consult and guide teams to find that inner spark that can catch fire in the recording sessions to follow. In addition, students will be able to record their songs with Meleana, Mana Maoli’s state-of-the-art solar mobile studio, built from a ʻ76 Airstream trailer as part of its Mana Mele Music/Multimedia Project.

Students who complete the challenge will be given the opportunity to take their songs to the next level including the opportunity to work in a professional recording studio.

Hackathon #2: CORAL HACK

In this hackathon, student teams will be challenged to find solutions and bring attention to our planet’s coral reefs that face great peril as the oceans heat up.

According to NOAA, climate change is the greatest global threat to coral reef ecosystems. Scientific evidence now clearly indicates that the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean are warming, and that these changes are primarily due to greenhouse gases derived from human activities. Scientists in Hawai’i lead the global effort to develop corals that can adapt to warming oceans and now students can help.

During this hackathon, student teams will use their creativity and skills with 3D printing to develop new structures that corals can attach to and grow. Experts will share the specific criteria their inventions should address and empower hack participants to find solutions.

Winners will be given the opportunity to work this summer at the meLab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to finalize prototypes and print in 3D the designs that scientists can test with corals.


Photo by Rich Downs, Manu o Ku Hui Coordinator and Audubon Society Board Member. PHOTO BY RICH DOWNS, MANU O KU HUI COORDINATOR AND AUDUBON SOCIETY BOARD MEMBER.

In this hack, participants will bring attention to our planet’s endangered and threatened animals through their creative efforts to develop a new app that will mobilize citizen scientists. Utilizing their creativity and great design, they’ll be asked to excite people around the world to join up as citizen scientists recording discoveries, uploading observations and drawing more volunteers in an effort to make a difference.

“This is so exciting because it encourages students to use their skills to create apps, have an impact, and address real needs in the community,” said Dr. Yvonne Chan, science teacher at ‘Iolani School, Audubon Society Board Member, and member of the Manu o Ku Hui. “I also love that it raises awareness for these beautiful birds and will make it fun to collect much needed Citizen Science data!”

Winners will be given the internship opportunity this summer at the iLab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to complete the design work and proof of concept for a first version of the app.


The three hackathons are just some of the many empowering, interactive STEM experiences awaiting students and teachers during this year’s Hawaii STEM Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center on Oahu.

The hackathons will kick off at 8:30 am on May 1 and will end the next day. Projects will be judged starting at 10 am on May 2 with winners announced at the STEMMY’s Awards Luncheon the same day by Hackathon leads, Mark Loughridge and Steve Sue.

“A big mahalo to Mark Loughridge and Steve Sue of Bizgenics Foundation for their help in designing these hacks and reaching out to partner organizations,” said Young. “They have expanded the notion of a hack from strictly computer science to composing original songs, printing innovative designs in 3D for coral reefs, and fostering a tech platform for citizen science.”

Middle school and high school students in Hawaii can sign up for the hackathons up to 4:30 pm on April 3Oth. The hackathon registration fee is free with the exception of a $50 fee, if attending the May 2nd STEMMY’s Awards Luncheon. For details, go to www.hawaiistemconference.org or email info@stemworkshawaii.org.

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