Above: Students and staff pose with the Helelani planetary rover outside HI-SEAS on Mauna Loa during the 2018 Women’s STARS Program organized by PISCES.

The PISCES Women’s STARS (STEM Aerospace Research Scholars) Program has received a generous boost this year of $15,000 in grant and sponsorship awards to encourage and support Hawaii’s young women in STEM.

The contributions were generously provided by two donors. Hawaii Community Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant through its Career Connected Learning Program. The additional $10,000 was donated by heavy equipment manfucturer Caterpillar, Inc. who will also support STARS with volunteer staff.

The funding awards will provide a more in-depth and enriching learning experience to participating students, adding an additional day to the program and covering the costs of on-island transportation, meals and overnight accommodations.

“We are honored and very appreciative to receive these generous contributions for the STARS Program from Hawaii Community Foundation and our partners in the heavy equipment manufacturing industry,” said Chris Yoakum, STARS program coordinator. “With a fully funded program, we can focus on the important task of giving Hawaii’s young women an enriching and inspiring summer experience that we hope will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”

This year, PISCES has partnered with Hawaii Science and Technology Museum (HSTM)—a Hawaii Island nonprofit dedicated to STEM outreach and education—to manage the funding for STARS. As fiscal sponsor, HSTM has been instrumental in managing and dispersing the $15,000 in funding.

Now moving into its sixth year, the STARS Program offers a unique summer STEM experience to Hawaii high school girls including engaging presentations, behind-the-scenes tours, hands-on workshops and mentoring opportunities. The week-long camp engages students with women scientists and engineers working in astronomy, aerospace engineering, space settlement research, marine biology, conservation, geology and planetary science.

PISCES received a record-number of applicants for STARS this year from students around the state. Due to budget and facility limitations, the program in its current format only accommodates up to 12 students. PISCES is working to expand the program to offer more opportunities to eligible students.