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Month: January 2014

UH Hilo RSVP volunteers honored at luncheon

Jean Funai
Jean Funai
George Matsubara
George Matsubara
Sueno Saruwatari
Sueno Saruwatari

Members of the County of Hawai‘i Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) who do volunteer work at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo were honored at a recognition luncheon Jan. 24 at Sangha Hall.

RSVP members recognized for their years of service at UH Hilo were Jean Funai, 14 years; George Matsubara, 10 years; Philomina Rabago, 17 years (did not attend event); and Sueno Saruwatari, 21 years.

Hawaii U.S. Senator Brian Schatz with Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, executive assistant to the chancellor.
U.S. Senator Brian Schatzwith Gail Makuakāne-Lundin, executive assistant to the chancellor.

Guest speaker at the event was U.S. Senator Brian Schatz.

UH Hilo Chancellor’s Office helps fund typhoon relief research in the Philippines

Report from the field: Nick Turner, UH Hilo geospatial analyst, reports on collaborative typhoon relief effort in the Philippines partially funded by the UH Hilo Office of the Chancellor.

UAV team with researchers from Aklan State University.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team with researchers from UH Hilo, UH Mānoa, and Aklan State University (UH Hilo’s geospatial analyst Nick Turner is second from right). The research team is using UAV to collect data on the damage inflicted by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013. It was the deadliest typhoon in Philippine history, killing over 6,000, and was the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed.
UH Hilo's Nick Turner and UH Mānoa's Chuck Devaney build a fleet of UAV's with the Skyeye team in Manila.
UH Hilo’s Nick Turner (standing) and UH Mānoa’s Chuck Devaney (sitting) build a fleet of UAV’s with the Skyeye team in Manila. Click to enlarge.

The Office of the Chancellor at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is helping fund a relief effort initiative to survey damage inflicted by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Philippines. Nick Turner, a geospatial analyst at the UH Hilo Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Laboratory and a UH Hilo graduate in geography and environmental science, has joined a team of researchers to help typhoon victims in the Philippines rebuild their communities.

Turner, as well as Chuck Devaney, a UH Mānoa graduate student in geography, and Iam Bouret, a Hawaiian Airlines pilot, are contributing to the project. Working collaboratively with a UAV organization in Manila called Skyeye, which is partly funded by the Ateneo de Manila University, the Hawai‘i team is contributing knowledge and skills on gathering data via remotely piloted aircraft systems, also called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs. The data collected will be sent to the Red Cross and the World Bank to aid in reconstruction.

Chuck Devaney hand launching an X8 UAV for flight.
Chuck Devaney hand launching an X8 UAV for flight. Click to enlarge.

Here is an email update on the project to Chancellor Straney from Nick Turner, dated Jan. 24:


I wanted to send an update on things in the Philippines. Internet access is somewhat limited and time is precious with days spent mapping and nights spent repairing birds and flight planning for the next day.

Phantom FX61
UAV Phantom FX61 flies overhead. Click to enlarge.

Our journey began in Manila with Chuck Devaney from Mānoa and Iam Bouret a pilot from Hawaiian Airlines. We are working with a local UAV organization here called Skyeye which is partly funded by the Ateneo de Manila University. Over the course of four days we built three mapping aircraft. The aircraft were built from the ground up utilizing low cost hardware and equipping them with autonomous flight, live video transmission and mapping capabilities. One of the great things about the collaboration between the Hawaii team and the Philippines team is we learned so much from each other from specific build techniques to best radio frequency selection. We helped Skyeye add FPV (First Person View) capabilities to their aircraft which had a large impact on how they conduct their missions, allowing the ground crew to have live situational awareness and increase overall safety during flights.

Aerial image over the Aklan river, Panay island, Philippines.
Aerial image over the Aklan river, Panay island, Philippines. Click to enlarge.

After building aircraft in Manila we flew to the island of Panay and are working in the province of Aklan. This is a very rural area with much of the surrounding communities centered around the Aklan river system. The climate here reminds me of Hilo with thick rainforest, but a bit quieter without the coqui frogs!

Our mission here is to map the Aklan river which has swelled in the past and overwhelmed levees in certain areas much like Katrina did in New Orleans. The Aklan State University is hosting us while the University of Ateneo de Manila covered inter-island logistics. The researchers here are quite eager to see what we can do with UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) technology to help. The local government hopes to use our imagery for hazard analysis along the river and find areas that need barriers, dikes or dredging. They cannot prevent natural catastrophes, but hope to mitigate future damage. Even pre-super typhoon Yolanda had significant storms that caused the river to flood destroying thousands of homes. Although this area was not the hardest hit, it still has its share of Yolanda damage with many parts of the island still without power and large trees and power-lines down along the roadways. Every village we pass through tends to draw a curious crowd of onlookers, many have never seen a UAV before.

Ground crew Chuck Devaney (left) and Chris Favila of Skyeye monitor a mapping mission over the Aklan river.
Ground crew Chuck Devaney (left) of UH Manoa and Chris Favila of Skyeye monitor a mapping mission over the Aklan river. Click to enlarge.

Field work has been challenging with the harsh environment. Finding suitable launch sites for missions and having luck with the weather has been the hardest. Today one of our of main aircraft had severe oscillation in auto mode. Luckily we have a talented team here and after half a day of troubleshooting the autopilot, we finally figured out it to be a software glitch from transferring flight plans between two ground stations, the problem was promptly fixed and our mapping continues tomorrow in Aklan.

Hawaiian Airline Captain Iam Bouret teaching aeronautical concepts to the Skyeye team in Manila.
Hawaiian Airlines Captain Iam Bouret teaching aeronautical concepts to the Skyeye team in Manila. Click to enlarge.

For me this has been an amazing experience to see how much of an impact this technology can have in far away places. Hawaii shares close ties with the Philippines as a good portion of Hawaii residents have family here. Most of the people we encounter in our travels want to learn more about what we are doing and often gather during missions to watch our flights and cheer us on during sketchy landings. UAS are going to play an increasingly important role in places like this as it allows local leaders to make informed decisions, respond with resources quicker to where they are needed and make geospatial and remote sensing information more accessible to communities that need it.

The Hawaii UAS team would like to thank Chancellor Straney for supporting us in utilizing our technology skills in an impactful way for an area that needs it.

More photos:

195 mph sustained winds from super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) easily knocked over large trees and power lines.
195 mph sustained winds from super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) easily knocked over large trees and power lines.
Local kids from the town of Banga, had never been on an airplane before and got to experience FPV (First Person View) flight for the first time.
Local kids from the town of Banga are enthralled with the technology used by the researchers. None had ever been on an airplane before and were thrilled to experience FPV (First Person View) flight for the first time.
UAV team meeting with the local mayor to discuss focus areas for UAV applications.
UAV team meeting with the local mayor to discuss focus areas for UAV applications.

Photos courtesy of Nick Turner.

See KITV News report on Hawai‘i team preparing for the Philippine project.


21st annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium held at UH Hilo

The Hawaiian language came back from the brink of extinction in the early 1980s thanks to a revival program by a small group of educators.

When it started, the number of Native Hawaiian speakers was in the hundreds, now there are thousands.

In January 2014, 300 teachers, school administrators, researchers and delegates representing indigenous languages in 25 of the 50 United States and ten countries came to Hawaiʻi to take part in the 21st annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium.

The five-day conference at Haleʻōlelo, the Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel showcased how the Hawaiian language was saved and is now flourishing.

“Some of these groups have kept the languages much longer than Hawaiian was kept here in Hawaiʻi and yet we are ahead of them now because of the work that was done in the 1980s trying to start the language again,” said Pila Wilson, one of the symposium organizers and UH Hilo Hawaiian language professor.


The symposium featured dozens of workshops, panels and presentations focusing on the use of schooling for language revitalization and immersion programs from preschool to doctorate. Among the countries represented were Saudi Arabia, Canada, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, the Marshall Islands, Japan and Taiwan, where more than a dozen indigenous languages are near extinction.

“Right now we are losing our language because the Chinese dominated our society, the mainstream society, so this is why we come to the conference,” said Hung-Yu Ru a delegate from Taiwan. “We are looking for some way to try and save our language.”

Other groups already have strong language programs and were more interested in issues like government testing, developing curricula, parental involvement and other challenges.

“Our students learn Navajo and they speak Navajo, but once they, with other peers, like in the playground and in the lunch line, they’ll switch back to English,” said Florian Tom Johnson, and administrator from Rough Rock Community School, a Navaho language immersion school in Chinle, Arizona. “We want to know how it is done here to stay in Hawaiian.”

The overall lesson was perhaps the most important for any person or group whose goal is to have their language flourish like Hawaiian does today.

“They’ve learned from us that a small group of people can have a huge impact,” said Wilson.

~UH System News

New Hawaiian language building opens

The movement to preserve and perpetuate the Hawaiian language—that started decades ago—took another step forward in 2014 with the opening of Haleʻōlelo, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language.

Previously, the college’s programs and operations were scattered throughout the campus.

“Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani has now a honua, an environment where language, Hawaiian language, can sustain and be used, at all times,” said Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, the College of Hawaiian Language director.

The $21 million dollar, two story, 36,000 square foot complex features a performing arts auditorium, classrooms, library, media resource room, computer lab, meeting rooms and offices.

“A lot of my teachers have been fighting for this, for years, years and years, decades, way before I was even thought of,” said UH Hilo student ʻĀlika Guerrero. “So to be a part of it, this new building, I mean it is a victory, not only for me, but my parents, my grandparents, and my kids to come, my grandkids.”

The Haleʻōlelo blessing and grand opening was steeped in Hawaiian tradition with a ʻOki Piko ceremony, symbolizing the severing of the umbilical cord and the start of the building’s new life; heahea, or calls of welcome and singing of traditional Hawaiian songs.

The festivities then moved to the college’s new auditorium for hula performances and speeches.

“This building represents, to the members of UH Hilo, our dedication to being a Hawaiian university and all of the meanings of those words,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney. “A university where you learn all subjects in Hawaiian, a university where Hawaiian language and values inform what we do.”

“This is a beautiful and spectacular building and traditional building,” said UH System Interim President David Lassner. “And it is also a modern building. This is a building that will connect Hawaiʻi, Hawaiians and Hawaiian language to the world.”

The College of Hawaiian Language is already internationally recognized for its undergraduate, master’s and PhD programs; indigenous teacher training, distance learning programs and Ulukau electronic library.

Alongside the Hawaiian curriculum work and the Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center, the college serves as an important example for other indigenous language efforts around the world.

Haleʻōlelo provides needed state-of-the-art infrastructure that will allow the college to grow, develop and expand and further perpetuate the Hawaiian language and culture.

“It is a huge contribution into moving us to that that next level,” said Kawaiʻaeʻa.

~UH System News