Above: PISCES staff and mentors of the PISCES-RISE Robotics Club show students how to remotely control robots to gather plastic spools and stack them on a shelf.

Keaukaha elementary school opened its doors on Tuesday evening, April 23, to invite students and families from the community for an evening of hands-on science, engineering and cultural activities.

Visitors learn about spectrography with Gemini Observatory outreach assistant Alyssa Grace.

Visitors learn about spectrography with Gemini Observatory outreach assistant Alyssa Grace.

Roughly 200 parents and their children attended, many with their eyes and hands focused on fastening, connecting and building objects like mini-robots and battery-operated circuits. Keiki learned about kinetic energy by playing with Matchbox cars, and the techniques of astronomy by viewing different spectrums of light through spectrographic filters. The event also included Hawaiian cultural activities like poi pounding and maritime knot-tying used by Polynesian navigators.

PISCES staff and mentors of the PISCES-RISE Robotics Club for Keaukaha students brought two VexIQ robots and a competition ring where students raced against the clock to stack plastic barrels in a shelf using handheld remotes. The evening family event was also supported by Gemini Observatory, University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and the Office of Maunakea Management.

“Keaukaha always has a very good turnout,” said Carolyn Kaichi, outreach coordinator for IfA who helps organize the event. “The teachers, parents and children all seem to be interested in and supportive of science. Iʻm always pleased to see how many parents are so committed to their childrensʻ education–I can tell by how engaged they are when they assist their kids with the activities.”

The evening began as any proper community event in Hawaii should: a reverent pule chanted by two dozen elementary students followed by a complimentary ono dinner.