The Intersection of Life, Culture and Technology

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A Glimpse of Oahu’s Water Source – Halawa Pumping Station

September 25th, 2015 · environment, Navy, water

Halawa Pumping Station

There is no doubt that water is important but sometimes we take it for granted thinking it will always be there. Like petroleum, one day fresh water will become a scarce resource. We assume that the artesian wells that provide Oahu’s fresh water will continue to be productive but ever since they’ve been tapped, in the 1940’s, the levels have been decreasing.

I recently got a chance to revisit the Board of Water Supply’s Halawa Pumping Station since the last time was quite a while ago.  Things haven’t changed much. The trolley that takes you down the shaft still reminds me of a carnival ride.


Halawa Shaft

What is amazing is the fresh water that sustains all of us resides in pools deep in the earth. The system that replenishes this supply is well understood. But as the demands on these water resources grow, whether it be population growth or development, you can see the water levels drop from the 1940s to present.


Freshwater well

In addition to increased water usage there are the threats due to contamination. A recent revelation was the fuel storage facility located on Red Hill. These large containers of jet fuel are leaking and pose a threat to the Moanalua wells. Discussions for a remedy are ongoing between the BWS and Navy as this site visit might indicate, but it is still unclear what the solution is and a proposed settlement is still forthcoming.

This will become an issue if not already. You can familiarize yourself with this project by reviewing the Administrative Order on Consent and the Statement of Work along with an archive of supporting documentation I helped to produce in collaboration with the Board of Water Supply.

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Pixar in a Box

September 17th, 2015 · STEM



On Bytemarks Cafe this past Wed. September 16, 2015, we got a chance to talk to the new Director of DBEDT (Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism) Luis Salaveria and Georja Skinner, Chief Officer of the Creative Industries Division, about several initiatives including broadband, tech entrepreneurship and energy. But one that caught my attention was related to STEM or a hybrid called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Although we’ve been covering STEM topics for years, from VEX and First Robotics, Science Olympiad, Science Fair, Sea Perch, GenCyber, etc, this was the first time the A was emphasized in association with a well known brand, Pixar.

Pixar in a Box, a unique partnering between Pixar and Khan Academy, is a new online resource that explores the academic concepts behind Pixar Animation Studios’ creative process. Through a series of video lessons, interactive exercises, and hands-on activities, students will discover how the academic concepts they learn in school enable Pixar filmmakers to create new worlds, animate unique characters and tell stories through animation. Although designed especially for students in middle and high school, these resources are available to learners of all ages, completely free of charge.

According to Georja Skinner, 37 teachers in the Dept of Education have been been selected to incorporate the course material into their classes. Unlike some of the other STEM programs like robotics, which require after school time by the students and teachers, Pixar in a Box will get integrated in the class curriculum. Teachers interested beyond the initial 37 need only contact DBEDT as more teachers will be added as the curriculum grows.

Salaveria feels strongly that the A for Arts incorporated into STEAM is a key differentiator for Hawaii students introducing a creative arts discipline into the technology and engineering pathway. If done correctly could give Hawaii students an edge over traditional STEM learning.

With Pixar in a Box students can learn:

  • How combinatorics are used to create crowds, like the swarm of robots in WALL’E.
  • How parabolas are used to model environments, like the forest in Brave.
  • How weighted averages are used to create characters, like Buzz Lightyear and Woody.
  • How linear and cubic interpolation are used to animate characters.
  • How trigonometry is used to create the worlds in which Pixar stories take place.
  • How simultaneous equations are used to paint all of Pixar’s images.

Pixar in a Box is free and while the first year focuses on math, future Pixar in a Box lessons will explore science, computer science, arts, and humanities. It will be interesting to see how this new curriculum impacts students as they progress through their education and onto their professional ambitions. I will keep an eye and report back on this development.

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Slideshow of Jodo Mission #BonDance 2015

August 17th, 2015 · culture

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Super #TyphoonSoudelor creates havoc in Saipan

August 3rd, 2015 · communities, emergency management


Super Typhoon Soudelor made land fall on the island of Saipan, CNMI this past weekend, Aug 2 and 3, 2015. There is widespread debris, downed trees and island wide power outages. There were approximately 350 people displaced into shelters. Articles about the storm and its effect on the island are coming in from Huffington Post, Guam Pacific Daily News, New Zealand Herald and Surprisingly, Typhoon Soudelor got very little coverage in the Hawaii media.

News directly from Saipan is very limited as well. Most tweets with #typhoonsoudelor seem to be from friends and relatives outside of Saipan sending their prayers and well wishes:

This might be due to the fragile state of the island’s Internet service. While I was there teaching a course on Social Media for Natural Disaster Response and Recovery, back in June 2015, Internet access was spotty at best in the classrooms where we conducted the training.

Eventually the Commonwealth Utility Corporation will restore power and the Internet brought back online for Saipan. In the meantime, if you have any information or support services for the people of Saipan feel free to share it on this Facebook group called Saipan, CNMI Recovery Assistance. We found this tool was very useful when Hurricane Iselle impacted Hawaii Island. It is the least we can do to leverage the technology and hopefully help to quicken the recovery process.

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Slideshow of Joy of Sake 2015 #joyofsake

August 1st, 2015 · culture

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NOAA @okeanosexplorer – Exploring the Deep Waters off Hawaii 2015

July 30th, 2015 · environment, ocean


At 6:00am (Correction: departure is closer to 9:00am) on Friday, July 31, 2015 the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will leave on it’s voyage to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to begin an exploration into areas previously unexplored. In addition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Okeanos will explore the area around the Johnston Atoll and the recently expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument as well as several seamounts in the vicinity of the Main Hawaiian Islands.

These large swaths of ocean, all a part of the Pacific Marine National Monuments and NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries cover an area of approximately 742,000 square miles of relatively pristine marine ecosystems. This exploration and mapping by Okeanos will help to establish a baseline for scientists, conservationist, policy makers and the public to best manage the region. Along with the protection of this natural resource are the potential for deep sea mining and the extended U.S. Continental Shelf. The information gathered on this expedition will help decision makers tackle these issues.


On the voyage, Okeanos will provide livestreams from cameras situated on the Deep Discoverer and Seirios ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) and from Mission Control. The ship is touted as being the most Internet connected research vessel with a 20Mbps upstream satellite connection to enable HD broadcasts. Through the livestreams, the public will see exactly what the scientists onboard see in mission control. In addition to being well connected the program believes in data transparency and “strives to make as much of the data collected onboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer available to the scientists and the public as soon as possible.” Data from the mission gets posted 1-6 months after the mission.

Our interview on Hawaii Public Radio with onboard scientists Dr. Chris Kelley and Dr. Daniel Wagner go into the specifics of the mission. You can also enjoy a virtual tour of the ship though this photo album as I visit the bridge, mission control, the ROVs, engine room and lab. Thanks to Kelley Elliot, Expedition Coordinator, Emily Rose, Operations Officer and Toni Parras, Communications Manager for a very informative tour. We are living in an exciting time for science, exploring the far reaches of our solar system and the mighty depths of our ocean.

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City Rolls out ‘Extreme Tsunami’ Inundation Maps

July 24th, 2015 · emergency management, weather


The City and County of Honolulu held a press conference to roll out the newly revised tsunami inundation maps based on models of an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands generating a massive tsunami directed towards Hawaii. The new maps depict a zone further inland where a large wave generated by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake could penetrate. This new zone is referred to as the Extreme Tsunami Evacuation Zone. According to Gerard Fryer, the senior geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, a tsunami of this magnitude could come from any direction.


With a population on Oahu of 90,000 in the regular evacuation zone and an additional 330,000 individuals in the ‘extreme’ evacuation zone, the City could be looking to accommodate a total of 420,000 people in a worst case scenario. The new maps were developed by the University of Hawaii and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and funded by a grant from Sea Grant College. Data for the neighbor islands were also developed through this study but it was unclear when the neighbor islands were planning to roll out their maps.


In addition to introducing the new maps, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) also announced their new mobile app for disaster preparedness. The app called ReadyHawaii is available for iOS and Android and provides maps, threats, local information and hazard history. Here, Peter Hirai, Deputy Director of DEM demonstrates the functions of the app. ReadyHawaii cost an estimated $40,000 and was funded by a grant from Sea Grant/NOAA.


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Red Hill Administrative Order #opendata

July 22nd, 2015 · Navy


July 20th was the deadline for public comment on the Red Hill Fuel Tank Administrative Order. The EPA and State Dept of Health sought feedback from the public regarding the fuel tank storage tanks and plans to minimize the fuel leaks from the tanks. It is now up to the EPA and DOH to decide whether or not to sign the Administrative Order on Consent with the U.S. Navy to make it effective or to modify it base on information received during the public comment period.

The Board of Water Supply released the following comments and a summary of the comments on July 20, 2015:

Here is testimony from Ernest Lau, Manager and Chief Engineer at the Board of Water Supply at the June 18, 2015 public meeting.

Hawaii Open Data, the non-profit I started to advance the principles for open data helped to make many of the documents relating to the Red Hill Fuel Tank project, accessible to the public. This is important in that the bulk of these documents were not going to be make electronically available and only physically accessible to the public.

The document repository contains more that 400 documents that are text searchable. The original files were pdf scans which we were able to OCR and make text searches available. This historical archive provides easy access to the large body of work that reveals the fuel tanks leaks and the potential effects on the Moanalua-Waimalu aquifer affecting 25% of Oahu’s population.

The next step is to see if the EPA and DOH sign the agreement (AOC) with the U.S. Navy. More to come.

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The @Peace_Boat docked at Honolulu Harbor

July 16th, 2015 · emergency management

Peace Boat

On its annual 3 month voyage around the world, the Peace Boat docks in Honolulu Harbor. Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization whose mission is:

To promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.

This year, I along with a small group of about 25 individuals was invited to a mini conference on community resilience and disaster risk reduction. Invited guests ranged from community organizers from Manoa and Hawaii Kai, NDPTC, NOAA, Amnesty International Honolulu, Pacific Forum CSIS, VOAD, R3ady Asia-Pacific and a few others.

The goal of the mini conference was to determine what attendees thought were the primary challenges and opportunities for their community’s disaster risk reduction. Given the short timeframe people only had time to identify a few of their challenges. This is a job being worked on by various levels of governments and NGOs and we were not going to solve any problems in an afternoon. Realizing that, it became a chance to network with others in similar fields.

The last presentation of the day and probably why we were assembled was a request by Robin Lewis, Peace Boat’s International Disaster Relief Coordinator, to consider the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction Resilient Cities Campaign. It contains a 10-point checklist for making cities more resilient. I’ve learned in the past that when governmental agencies as international as the UN get involved our local County and State government are more incline to get involved before we (citizens) do. Here’s to see what happens next.


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Damaged batteries delay @SolarImpulse journey until 2016

July 15th, 2015 · innovation


The historic flight of the Solar Impulse 2 from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii will be the last flight of 2015. The around the world journey was to continue on from Hawaii to Phoenix, Arizona, but when the team announced that damaged batteries were going to delay the mission, the window to complete the flight around the world quickly closed. Initially it was thought that just a few batteries needed to be replaced. After analysis of the entire system, the team decided to replace all the batteries. With these batteries not being immediately available, the installation would push into August.

As the days get shorter, the optimal charging and cooling cycle for the batteries will change. Also the end of summer is the peak hurricane season as numerous storms form in the eastern Pacific. This along with the hospitality shown to the Solar Impulse team by officials in Hawaii resulted in the decision to stay in Hawaii through the winter. The plan is to resume the around the world flight in April or May 2016.

The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft will remain in the Univ of Hawaii hangar at Kalaeloa Airport. Work now will involve securing the plane and repairing the systems in preparation for the flight next year. The majority of the crew will return to their families until 2016.

Our full interview with Andre Borschberg, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse and Gregory Blatt, “Pilot on the ground” and Managing Director will air at 5pm (Wed, 7/15/15) during the regularly scheduled time on Hawaii Public Radio. Our guests talk candidly about the mission and the tough decisions made along the way. If you listen to their story, it is hard not to appreciate the complexity of this journey and the fortitude and dedication required by the team to manage through all situations. If you missed it at air time, you can listen (after 5pm) to the podcast here. You can read the press announcement here.

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