Above: Twelve Hawaii high school students from around the state spent a night on “Mars” at the HI-SEAS research habitat on Mauna Loa during the sixth-annual program in June.
PISCES wrapped up the sixth-annual Women’s STARS Program in late June, graduating 12 Hawaii high school women from around the state.
Students spent six days traveling across the Big Island visiting premiere research and development facilities and talking with female scientists, engineers and educators working in STEM careers.
“I didn’t know how many STEM opportunities were available on the island and I learned a lot more about what is out there for me and about different fields I can pursue,” wrote one student about the program. “This program has been an amazing experience and I really enjoyed traveling around the island to see all these incredible things and meet and hear from so many amazing people.”
“I already was sure I was going into science, but the STARS program boosted my confidence and excitement tremendously,” another student commented. “It also gave me a more focused direction on where I want to be and how to get there.”
Though previously focused on astronomy and aerospace, the STARS program has expanded to include a variety of STEM subjects including conservation and marine biology, and other natural sciences practiced in Hawaii. Since its inception, STARS has sought to provide encouragement and support to young women interested in STEM. The program also aims to expose participants to the many opportunities, resources and individuals working on Hawaii island, and provide a window of possibilities for the future of STEM careers.
So far, the program is achieving its goals. Student feedback from the latest program shows 100% of participants are more likely to pursue a career in STEM after attending STARS. That number is up 10% from 2018 when student surveys showed 90% of participants were influenced to pursue higher education and careers in STEM.
In addition to talks and tours, this year’s students built smart robots and planted native species at the Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a forest reserve in West Hawaii. They also planned different aspects of a human spaceflight mission to Mars as part of a week-long group project.
The STARS program’s longer duration this year was made possible through generous support from a number of sponsors and partner organizations. Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, Inc. provided $10,000 in funding and Hawaii Community Foundation’s Career Connected Learning Program awarded a $5,000 grant.
“It is incredibly important that we inspire students and help them develop an interest in science and technology at a young age,” said Caterpillar Engineering Manager Anthony McNealy. “These young women are the innovators of the future.”