'Imiloa Turns 11

New exhibits and activities introduced in honor of center’s anniversary

Science and Travel Writer/Photographer Alyssa Grace

Kids stacking giant informational blocks

“Keiki got to pound their kalo and bring their poi home. It was so great to see that activity come full-circle.” - Brea Michelle, ‘Imiloa marketing and media associate

UH Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center recently celebrated its 11th birthday, attracting patrons from around the island to partake in the festivities. The center welcomed over 2,500 visitors, who flocked to and many community organizations hosted interactive booths, it was a big success. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is a perfect blend of science and culture specializing in Astronomy and Hawaiian culture with its Exhibit Hall, Planetarium, and Native Plant Gardens. The celebration also marked one of the very few times of the year that both visiting the hall and watching various planetarium shows are free to the general public.

Although this year’s may not have had a train or giant birthday cake made of post-it note wishes, it did not lack in fun and varied activities. “We showcased new data sets in our interactive CyberCANOE exhibit this year, and we’re looking forward to expanding and adding more to CyberCANOE in our 11th year,” said Brea Michelle, marketing and media associate at ‘Imiloa.

“An exhibit that we didn’t have at last year’s birthday celebration is our NANO Exhibit, which is ‘Imiloa’s newest exhibit. It’s an interactive tool that engages family audiences in nanoscale technology. This hands-on exhibit presents the basics of nanoscience and introduces some real world applications,” Michelle said.

Peter Michaud (Gemini Observatory) doing an expanding universe activity with balloons

Representatives from most of Hawai‘i observatories were present, including Gemini Observatory’s Peter Michaud, who handed out over 400 balloons in a so-called ‘expanding universe activity.’ Subaru Telescope’s Yuko Kakazu gave some talks with the 3-D CyberCANOE exhibit, and Julien Lozi handed out Subaru postcards at the PANOPTES exhibit. Canada France Hawai‘i Telescope’s team played trivia with a star wheel and constellations. Amidst the shows taking place in the planetarium, there were talks on exoplanets and astrobiology with leading experts in the field, like German astronomer Markus Kissler-Patig.

In addition to the astronomy community, a number of local organizations had a presence at ‘Imiloa for the center’s anniversary. Among the groups included Volcanoes National Park, which gave out origami bugs, and the Maunakea Forest Restoration Project, offering coloring books that featured palila (Hawaiian finches). There was also limu (seaweed) pressing, and a gravity demonstrating tub.

Outdoor activities included learning about Rapid ‘Ōhia Death and poi pounding. “We harvested the kalo from our native gardens at ‘Imiloa, and Hale Pa’a Kaua prepared the kalo for the day, and the keiki got to pound their kalo and bring their poi home,” Michelle said. “It was so great to see that activity come full-circle.”

To sum up the day, Michelle noted that “‘Imiloa was thrilled to host such a fun and educational day for the community. We are so grateful to all of the UH organizations, and to other community groups who helped create fun and engaging activities for our visitors, all centered around the theme of ‘Earth, Sea and Sky.’”

Disclosure: The author of this article is an administrative assistant at Gemini Observatory.