Above: STARS students experienced insider tours at some of the world’s most powerful telescopes on Maunakea during the STARS Program in early July.

Twelve young women from islands throughout the State of Hawaii attended and completed the 2018 STARS (STEM Aerospace Research Scholars) Program held by PISCES in early July.

Thanks to generous partner support by recognized science, technology and research organizations, as well as sponsorship awards from the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation and Women’s Fund of Hawaii, the fifth annual workshop was a success and provided more opportunities and activities than previous years. This year STARS included overnight accommodations throughout the week, allowing students from Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island to attend.

Many female scientists and engineers eagerly supported the program, engaging students with overviews of their research, and personal stories relating their challenges and successes as women studying and working in STEM fields primarily dominated by men. Jessica Dempsey, an astrophysicist and deputy director at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), returned to open the program with a frank (and funny) discussion of the trials she overcame to become a successful astrophysicist. Nagin Cox, a spacecraft engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, presented remotely via videoconference from an isolated research facility in the Arctic Circle. Cox plays a leading role in NASA’s Mars rover missions (including Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 mission) and demonstrates a clear passion for outreach—especially young women. Kim Stratton, an aerospace engineer at Caterpillar’s Automated Division, returned for her second year supporting STARS to chaperone and present on the possibilities for creative expression and fun that engineering can offer. Miriam Fuchs of the Smithsonian Submillimeter Array also provided staff support and a lively presentation on the origins of the universe.

These and other talks were alternated with activities to keep students engaged including a robotics workshop, planetary geology expedition and mock-Mars rover mission. Students also stayed overnight at the HI-SEAS habitat, experiencing what it might be like to live on Mars. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard provided a closing video message for the program, urging students to pursue their dreams and be exemplary leaders for their peers to follow.

Besides being a lot of fun for the students, feedback surveys indicate the program succeeded in its intended goal. Eleven students rated their STARS experience as “excellent.” All 12 reported they are more likely to pursue a career in STEM after completing the program.

View photos from the 2018 STARS Program >>

Special thanks to our 2018 STARS Program sponsors and supporters!

  • Hawaii Technology Development Corp.
  • Women’s Fund of Hawaii
  • Nagin Cox, NASA JPL
  • Jessica Dempsey, JCMT
  • Kimberley Stratton, Caterpillar Ltd.
  • Marc Roberts, UH Hilo Vulcan Robotics
  • Miriam Fuchs, Smithsonian SMA
  • Alexis Acohido, Gemini Observatory
  • Yuko Kakazu, Subaru Telescope
  • Mary Beth Laychak, CFH Telescope
  • Kalepa Baybayan, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center
  • Kim Binsted, HI-SEAS
  • Jonathan Humphries, HI-SEAS
  • Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee (MKAOC)
  • Geneva San Miguel, Resonate Hawaii
  • Darrin “DC” Carlson, KWXX