Hawaiʻi’s first lady visits UH Hilo, learns about science and technology programs

Mrs. Ige saw presentations about unmanned aerial vehicles, robotics, award-winning online sci-fi games, and more.

By Susan Enright.

Mrs. Ige  sits in front row listening to students. Drones are on table next to Mrs. Ige.
(l-r) Mrs. Ige listens to computer science students Casey Pearring and Theodore DeRego talk about their online sci-fi game that won them first place in the 2015 Microsoft Imagine Cup Pitch Video Challenge. On the desk to Mrs. Ige’s right are several aerial vehicles, which were part of an earlier presentation about UH Hilo’s UAV work by cyber computer programmer Nick Turner and colleagues. 

Mrs. Ige, first lady of the state of Hawaiʻi, visited the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo on May 8 and learned about several innovative science and technology programs. After visiting several high schools earlier in the day, Dawn Amano-Ige arrived at the UH Hilo campus in the afternoon and met with students, staff, and faculty at the Sciences and Technology Building.

Two techs talk to Mrs Ige and Matt Platz.
Nick Turner (left) and Nathan Stephenson give a presentation to Mrs. Ige (with lei) about the work done with unmanned aerial vehicles during the lava flow crisis in Puna last fall. 

“It was a great exchange and fun to see all the innovation at UH Hilo,” says Nick Turner, cyber computer programmer who along with colleagues Arthur Cunningham, an aviation program consultant, and Nathan Stephenson, a geography graduate student, shared information with the first lady about the work UH Hilo did with unmanned aerial vehicles in support of Civil Defense at the Pāhoa lava flow site.

Turner and his group showed Mrs. Ige UH Hilo’s fleet of UAV, focusing on the lava flow work.

“UAV’s are more than just a way to take pretty pictures, we can apply them to gather quantifiable data for applied science applications that can help during an emergency situation like the June 27th lava flow event,” says Turner.

Turner says Mrs. Ige was interested in learning about the beneficiaries of the information that was gathered. “I explained that our goal was to help the decision makers at Civil Defense become better informed on what the lava flow was doing, but we also partnered with HVO (Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory) and HCC (Hawaiʻi Community College) so it became a very collaborative effort.”

Casey Pearring and Theodore DeRego, two members of Team Hoku, a group of computer science students who recently won the games category of the 2015 Microsoft Imagine Cup Pitch Video Challenge, demonstrated their new computer game. The Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition is recognized as the premier global student technology competition. Team Hoku created reForge, an online sci-fi sandbox game where players command highly customizable ships in tactical battles. Players collect resources, trade in a player-driven economy, and team up to competitively control various parts of the game universe.

The Team Vulcans robotics team gave a demonstration along with their faculty team leader Elliot Sanders, an engineer and affiliate at the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management.

Two current candidates from UH Hilo’s master of arts in teaching program, who just completed year one of the program (preparation for licensure), did a presentation for Mrs. Ige. Britney Nakayama, elementary teacher candidate, and Jon Williamson, secondary science teacher candidate, provided an overview of the School of Education master’s program and shared their perspectives with her.

Joyce Hamasaki, a registered nurse and dean of career and technical education gave a presentation about the computer science and technology programs at Hawaiʻi Community College.

Hawaiʻi Island Honors

Mrs. Ige’s visit to UH Hilo concluded with the Hawaiʻi Island Honors event held at the Campus Center Dining Room. Hawaiʻi Island Honors was established this year to honor outstanding leadership, contributions and achievements made in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, inspiring young students to pursue higher education and career opportunities in STEM fields. The inaugural banquet honored outstanding educators Dale Olive and Eric Hagiwara of Waiakea High School, who grew a robotics program to include cybersecurity and micro-robotics.

Dale Olive and Eric Hagiwara high five people giving them congratulations.
Dale Olive (left) and Eric Hagiwara receive congratulations from Waiakea and Hilo Robotics teams. Photos courtesy of UH Hilo University Relations. 
Mitch Roth, Dawn Amano-Ige and Kaialiʻi Kahele stand for photo. Mrs. Ige wears lei.
(l-r) Mitch Roth, Dawn Amano-Ige and Kaialiʻi Kahele at the Hawaiʻi Island Honors event.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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