Sunday, March 03, 2024|
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Twenty years ago, a journey began.
This journey involves tens of thousands of East Hawaii students, teachers and the community in an annual event called Journey Through the Universe. Led by the International Gemini Observatory and the Department of Education Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area, Journey Through the Universe this week is celebrating its 20th year of classroom and community engagement.
It is expected that over 5,000 local students will engage in hands-on STEM learning activities this year, as science educators from Hawaii and beyond visit almost every school in Hilo and Waiakea. STEM education is crucial for global competitiveness and economic growth, fostering innovation, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills essential for addressing pressing challenges and driving technological advancement. It prepares individuals for the jobs of the future, ensuring a skilled workforce capable of contributing to diverse fields and industries.
These are topics that are ever-more important to our island. Each year, dozens of community business partners actively participate in the Journey program and central to this involvement is the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii, which are proud to help make this program a success. In fact, each year, the chambers sponsor a business community “Mahalo” event so that local businesses can thank all of the educators who make this program possible and inspire our keiki.
This year’s Community Mahalo event, held Monday, featured a hands-on demonstrations hosted by the Maunakea Observatories and a keynote speaker, Dr. Matt Mountain, who was Gemini’s first director in Hawaii.
“Hawaii, and especially Hawaii Island, has a special place in my heart,” Mountain said. “My kids grew up in Hilo while I was director of Gemini, and we were all deeply affected by our time on Hawaii Island, and through the many friends we all made.”
Since leaving Gemini, Mountain went on to lead the Hubble Space Telescope as well as the James Webb Space Telescope, and is now president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the organization that manages Gemini for the U.S. National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab and Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui.
On behalf of the Hawaii Island and Japanese Chambers of Commerce, we’d like to thank everyone who supports the Journey program, including the Gemini Observatory, the Department of Education, all of the Maunakea Observatories, ‘Imiloa, UH, the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board, media partners including the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, KWXX and numerous other local businesses and education institutions, as well as NASA and all of the science educators who devote so much of their time and energy to inspiring our keiki.
“When I was a student at Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High Schools, the Journey program had a profound impact on my decision to pursue astronomy as a career,” said Hilo High graduate Devin Chu, who recently received his doctorate from UCLA in astrophysics. Devin studied the physical environment surrounding the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy and his thesis adviser, Andrea Ghez, received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for her work in this field.
“Since I was a child, I wanted to be an astronomer.,” Chu said. “The Journey program provided a perspective for me and a path forward to work with local astronomers. I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this inspiration from the scientists who visited our classrooms over the years.”
Finally, we’d like to express our gratitude for programs like Journey that bring our community together to participate in the education and inspiration of our youth. Together with our school teachers and administrators, we hope to play a role in better preparing our keiki for opportunities and challenges of life. Journey Through the Universe is an exemplary model for how partnerships between education, business, and science can keep our keiki aiming high!
Randy Kurohara is president of the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, and Garth Yamanaka is president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii.
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