UH Hilo students use the ancient art of rhetoric to promote modern energy policy

Through abstracts, videos, and infographics, UH Hilo students taking a course on rhetoric are applying their skills of persuasion to the modern goal of advocating Hawaiʻi’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

By Leah Sherwood.


Above, a video presentation created by one of the teams of UH Hilo students in a course on the ancient art of rhetoric. The video is educational about clean energy options with specific focus on projects happening on the campus of UH Hilo. This team and teams of other students taking the class are taking part in a clean energy educational campaign sponsored by the community group Blue Planet.

Malia Bryman, Maximilian Abraham and Cody Pacheco
Student team that produced “Energy Storage” video posted above (left to right), Malia Bryman, Maximilian Abraham (narrator) and Cody Pacheco. Courtesy photo, click to enlarge.

Rhetoric, the art of effective speaking or writing, has ancient roots, but University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo students are applying their skills of persuasion to the modern goal of advocating Hawaiʻi’s transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

Undergraduate students in two sections of this semester’s course on Introduction to Rhetoric (ENG 287) created abstracts, videos and infographics in a collaboration with Blue Planet Foundation, a local nonprofit promoting renewable energy and sustainability in Hawaiʻi. The students are participating in Blue Planet’s We Are 100 campaign where the organization is gathering 100 stories from throughout the state that support Hawaiʻi’s journey to clean energy.

The students’ sustainability abstracts, videos, and infographics are part of a mid-semester project in the rhetoric class, where other assignments include more traditional formats such as footnoted research papers.

“This three part project is a regular component of the class, an exploration of rhetorical messages utilizing multiple media platforms,” says Patsy Iwasaki, the instructor in English teaching the class. “However, this semester, students are collaborating with Blue Planet Foundation.”

“Many of the student teams chose to highlight the sustainability efforts by UH Hilo, including the solar panels on the Edwin H. Mookini Library, hydroflask stations, UH Hilo Students of Sustainability club and solar-powered charging stations.”

—Patsy Iwasaki

The collaboration with Blue Planet Foundation was arranged through Julie Mowrer, acting director of the Center for Community Engagement at UH Hilo.

Iwasaki says the students were already extremely interested in these topics and are excited to know that their work will have purpose and impact beyond the classroom.

“I am so very proud of the excellent products they created from their smart phones and laptops using free apps,” she says. “Many of the student teams chose to highlight the sustainability efforts by UH Hilo, including the solar panels on the Edwin H. Mookini Library, hydroflask stations, UH Hilo Students of Sustainability club and solar-powered charging stations.”

The students’ creations will be featured on Blue Planet Foundation’s website and compiled into a published book as part of the organization’s We Are 100 campaign.

Impact beyond the classroom

The students in each class were organized into five teams to produce informational team abstracts and videos on local environmental themes. Some of the topics explored are solar power, other renewable energy projects, and sustainability projects at UH Hilo, and renewable energy on Hawaiʻi Island.

Instructor of the class, Patsy Iwasaki, says she has received positive feedback on the students’ work from Blue Planet as well as from Hawai’i Energy, a customer-funded conservation and efficiency program administered by Leidos Engineering LLC under contract with the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission.

All the students in the class also produced individual sustainability-themed infographics that connect with their abstracts and videos. Infographics are eye-catching graphic visual representations with text intended to present information to the public quickly and clearly. The students’ infographic topics include solar, geothermal, and other renewable power sources, as well as general energy-related topics such as battery storage and the concept of carbon footprints.

Here are examples of the individual student infographics:

Iwasaki says she has received positive feedback from Blue Planet as well as from Hawaiʻi Energy, a customer-funded conservation and efficiency program administered by Leidos Engineering LLC under contract with the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission. The program is sponsoring three students from the two UH Hilo classes to attend Hawaiʻi Energy’s upcoming Innovation Symposium, April 17 on Oʻahu.

“Hawaiʻi Energy was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm, communication skills and excellent projects,” says Iwasaki. “Two of the student videos will be featured in an ongoing loop at the conference.” The teams hope to discuss their research and products at the exhibit sessions.

Update: April 30, 2019

Three students from the ENG 287 Introduction to Rhetoric class attended the Hawaiʻi Energy Innovation Symposium held in Honolulu on April 17.

“The students and I really had a wonderful educational experience,” says Iwasaki. “The students made great contacts at the symposium. If they write to Maria Vargas, director of the U.S. Department of Energy, and other leaders they met at the symposium, they would likely have a good chance of getting an internship.”

The three students created a Google Slides presentation about their experience attending the symposium and gave a report to the two class sections at the end of the semester. “The presentation reflects their own voices voices on what a fantastic learning experience it was for them,” Iwasaki explains.


About the author of this story: Leah Sherwood is a graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program at UH Hilo. She received her bachelor of science in biology and bachelor of arts in English from Boise State University.

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