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Blessing/dedication held for MKAEC construction site

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Date: Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Contact: Contact: Dr. Marlene Hapai, (808) 933-3917

For Immediate Release

Hilo’s astronomy community was on full public display today as the University of Hawaii at Hilo University Park of Science and Technology formally welcomed a future tenant.

The blessing/dedication of the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center (MKAEC) construction site attracted a large cross-section of the community, along with a number of prominent dignitaries. Participants joining UH Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng included U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Dr. Adena Williams Loston, associate administrator of education, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Acting University of Hawai`i President David McClain, and Mayor Harry Kim.

“I am very pleased to be able to join in the blessing/dedication ceremony for the Mauna Kea Astronomy Education Center – the idea of which originated from a meeting on this very campus several years ago,” said Inouye, who was instrumental in securing federal funding for the project. “It has always been my hope that we create a place of lifelong learning where the wonders of astronomy and the power of
Native Hawaiian cultural traditions will together inspire the next generation of scientists and astronomers from Hawai`i.”

The ceremony included the inaugural presentation of the Impact Awards, established to celebrate people’s accomplishments.

Honored this year were Mitsuo Akiyama, 2004 Economic Impact Award, Wil Kyselka, 2004 Educational Impact Award, Dr. Walter Steiger, 2004 Scientific Impact Award, and Clay Bertelmann, 2004 Cultural Impact Award.

“These individuals have distinguished themselves by having a great impact on the many areas related to astronomy here on the Big Island as well as throughout the State of Hawai`i. We hope to make a similar impact through MKAEC’s facilities, programs and interactions with members of our local and global communities,” said Dr. Marlene Hapai, center director. “Today we honor their achievements and give thanks to the contributions they made to make this day possible.”

Two of the recipients were honored posthumously as Bertlemann and Akiyama passed away earlier this year.

The blessing/dedication capped off an afternoon of activities that featured an Open House hosted by observatory base facilities located in the Park and in Waimea.

The event offered a wide variety of astronomical exhibits and various activities, including solar viewing, comet making, discovering the earth’s layers, a scale model of the solar system, a presentation on docking the international space station and visitor tours of astronomy facilities, which proved to be especially popular with school-age children.

Hawaiian cultural activities were also on display, including hands-on and interactive exhibits on Hawaiian constellations, language and the voyaging canoe, Kea`eloa.

“This is educational outreach at its best, utilizing teaching and world-class professional resources to promote an interest in science to our youth,” said Chancellor Rose Tseng. “When you see the excitement and enthusiasm on the faces of the children, you can’t help but imagine what more we’ll be able to do when the Center opens.”

MKAEC will occupy a nine-acre site in the Park, and become the premier interpretative facility for sharing discoveries by the world’s most important collection of telescopes. The 40,000-square-foot Center will also bridge the gap between culture and science by framing its facilities and programs in Hawai`i’s rich Polynesian tradition of exploration.

Major components will include a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall, multi-purpose planetarium, classrooms for Center programs, a scenic view restaurant and gift shop. The Center is expected to open in late 2005.

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