Category Archives: science

Univ. of Hawaii Tech Showcase

UH_tech The University of Hawaii is showcasing four new technologies at a breakfast on October 22, 7:45am to 10am at the Banker’s Club downtown. The presenters will include:
  • Cyber-CANOE 3D virtual reality environment: Jason Leigh of Information and Computer Sciences
  • Anatomical 3D models on the zSpace virtual reality platform: Jesse Thompson of the John A. Burns School of Medicine
  • Telescope mirror technology for the solar industry: Jeff Kuhn of MorphOptic and the Institute for Astronomy
  • Realistic brain phantom for MRI research and development: Kyoko Fujimoto and Trent Robertson, Electrical Engineering graduate students
The Tech Showcase is presented by the UH Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development (OTTED), XLR8UH, and the College of Engineering with support from First Hawaiian Bank.

Girl Scouts unveil ISS experiment

Back in March 2013 the team of eight Girl Scouts of Hawaii sent a Microlab consisting of a self contain vessel with 8 arugula seeds, potting soil, lighting, water, camera and timing electronics to the International Space Station (ISS). The Microlab was sent to the ISS onboard the Space X Falcon 9 rocket on a supply delivery. After 30 day aboard the ISS and making the land journey back to Hawaii, the team took apart their Microlab to see if they were successful at germinating the arugula seeds. Of the eight seeds one did sprout a root about .5 inches long. Several of the seeds did not germinate but with the one, it was considered a success. The design of the Microlab consisted of a light source and water dispenser controlled by a timed valve. The water sack needed to be under constant pressure in order to dispense properly. The team devised a pressure system using rubber bands. I was impressed with their ingenuity and attention to space and costs. I told them this was right from MacGyver and they all looked at me with the question, Who's MacGyver? The team spent the better part of 6 months preparing for the launch. All from Hawaii high schools, the girls came from Iolani, Mililani, Nanakuli, Punahou and Sacred Hearts Academy. They designed the experiment, tested various seed options, constructed the seed container and programmed electronics for environmental control. Gail Hannemann, Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of Hawaii, considered this such a great learning experience she plans to enter another team on the next "Design It, Build It, Launch It" mission to the ISS.

From the Edge with Peter Lik

Just got word that The Weather Channel will premiere a new show called From The Edge with Peter Lik on Thursday, March 31st. The first show features footage of Peter trying to capture Pele and the lava flows emanating from Kilauea. The show will premiere at 2:00pm (HST) on Oceanic Channel 121 and again at 5:00pm this coming Thursday. In conjunction with the show, The Weather Channel also built an iPad app which synchs with the program as it airs. It apparently provides some show extras but I am most curious how the app synchs with the show and what it delivers once synched. Finally, The Weather Channel is running a photo contest in parallel with the show. You can submit your photos here to enroll in the contest. The winner gets a free trip to Las Vegas. It's an interesting use of mobile and social to assist in the rollout of a new program.

4th Annual FIRST Robotic Competition

Excitement reigned at this weekend's 4th Annual FIRST Robotics Competition. This year 32 teams competed in a challenge involved arranging large plastic tubes on a rack. As you can see in the video, there was a short autonomous exercise, the logo sequence and a micro robot challenge in each of the heats. These heats go by fast and only last a couple of minutes. Teams compete in a best of series culminating on the Saturday's final. This year the alliance of teams that won the overall competition was McKinley, Kealakehe and Waialua High School. The competitions are not only a show of science and engineering. The event is peppered with performances, cheer leading, dancing and overall team spirit. There was even a first ever (at least as seen by me) performance of a live iPad2 GarageBand. There were 4 guys all plugged in playing music off their iPad2s.  The three day event is quite a production and getting a chance to witness the student and audience energy is well worth the visit to Stan Sheriff Center on the UH campus. This year's event was also streamed from the NASA Robotics site. You can also read more about the various robotics competitions coming up during the rest of the year in this robotics Special Feature. Here is a set of photos I shot on during the Friday, March 24th qualifying heats. Hope to see you at the next robotics competition.

Hawaii Science Olympiad

The Hawai‘i Science Olympiad is one of those programs that involves a lot of students, teachers and supporters, fosters a great learning environment and promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. But inspite of this the program gets very little media attention. I'd equate this program to the Science Fair or Robotics competitions but relatively new to the Hawaii scene. The Science Olympiad started in 2005 as compared to the Science Fair which is going on its 54th year. Nevertheless, the Science Olympiad has as much energy and conviction as any program that is determined to make a difference in Hawaii's students. This year's Hawaii State final took place on March 5th on the campus of Leeward Community College. As its name implies, the Science Olympiad is an olympics-styled competition but rather than physical activities student teams compete in topics like astronomy, optics, geology, biology, etc. Although most of the competitions are closed to public viewing (to minimize participant distraction) there are several like the bottle rocket launch where the public is welcomed. In this exercise, plastic soda bottles are used to design a rocket that gets pumped with 75 lbs of air pressure and launched into the air. The competitive measure was how long the rocket stayed in the air. Students could use basic materials to design fins and a cone as well as the right water to air mixture for propellent. Two other publicly viewable competitions included the mousetrap vehicle and tower building, each intense in its own way. This year's competition drew 48 teams, up from 23 last year. Teams came from all over the state, both public and private schools. Congratulations go out to Iolani School and Maui Preparatory Academy who placed first in the the high school and middle school divisions, respectively.  Both teams will represent Hawai‘i at the National Science Olympiad Tournament at the University of Wisconsin in May. Franklin Allaire is the tireless director of this program and along with him is an army of coaches, judges, mentors and volunteers that make this program the success that it is. This group of people deserve a big round of thanks for encouraging a new generation of kids to explore and discover the limitless world of science and technology.

WCC – Hōkūlani Imaginarium

WCC - Hokulani ImaginariumJust last week Windward Community College reopened their Hōkūlani Imaginarium, now fully equipped with a new Definiti 4K projection system from Sky-Skan. The Definiti 4K provides high-resolution color imagery on a giant dome screen. Two projectors illuminate the dome screen giving it a 3D effect without the glasses. It is quite an enhancement compared to the previous system that projected points and line drawings. Joe Ciotti is the master of ceremonies for each of the showings. He adds a key dimension you won't find in other traditional theaters. He is there as a greeter, mood setter and subject matter expert. He warmed up the opening night viewing of Tales of the Maya Skies with a demonstration of the new features of the Definiti 4 system. He flashed a 3D rendering of the Space Shuttle and then showed how, through the marvel of 3D modeling, you can venture into the bone structure of the human skull. It is easy to imagine worlds of the extremely small to those of galactic proportions opening up for viewing. Opening with Tales of the Maya Skies introduced the audience to the capabilities of the system and the intricacies of putting a show like this together. In addition to a program rich in culture, images included animations of Mayan characters, 3D renderings of Maya structures and a story woven in science and legend. Tales of the Maya Skies is a Chabot Space & Science Center production with major funding provided by the National Science Foundation. Judging from the Sky-Skan catalog of shows, there are a lot of interesting programs to look forward to. Titles like Solar Storms, Awesome Light and Black Holes: Journey into the Unknown need little fanfare to attract my attention. Awesome Light includes an entire episode from the telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea:
Voyage into Subaru, Gemini, Keck, and Canada-France-Hawai‘i observatories to explore an exo-planet, supernova, and stars orbiting at the centre of the Milky Way and galactic survey.
Exo-planets, sign me up! Viewings of Tales of the Maya Skies continue through January 2011:
  • Friday, November 12, 7 p.m. & 8 p.m.
  • Friday, December 10, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, January 14, 7 p.m.
For tickets reservations and more information about the show, call Windward Community Collage at 808-235-7433.


PaCESMaybe I would have been a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon if summer sessions like this were available back in my day. Pacific Center for Environmental Studies (PaCES) is a six-week intensive course for high school juniors and seniors held at Windward Community College. This past Tuesday, I had a chance to spend an hour observing the class as they processed DNA samples. David Krupp and Rob Hutchison conduct the program that included field trips to Coconut Island, collecting water samples around coral reefs and studying genomics. The program is concludes with a symposium where students present their research findings. David and Rob explain that the course is not about lectures and book readings. It's about problem solving and creative thinking. The exercise I saw had the students taking their DNA samples, sourced originally from water around healthy coral and stressed coral, and extracting key segments. The DNA was mixed with a marker solution to be then placed in a gel electrophoresis device. The photo above shows the DNA separated out in the gel, based on the relative weigh density of the DNA. Pretty cool stuff. The program consists of about 20-25 students along with mentors from previous years. Both David and Rob will be joining us on the radio (KIPO 89.3FM) this coming Wed. July 7th at which time we'll get to talk to them in more detail about the program, what students learn from it and how in some cases is pivotal in setting a future course for these students. Hope you will join us in the conversation.

International Science & Engineering Fair

Hawaii Science and Engineering FairHawaii students were well represented in top honors at this year's Intel International Science & Engineering Fair held last week in San Jose, CA. Nolan Kamitaki from Waiakea High School and his project, Gene Dosage and Expression in Human Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines took the Best of Category and First Place in the category of Cellular and Molecular Biology. Second Place Grand Team Award went to Megan Kurohara and Hannah Rojeski of Hilo High School for their project "A New Spin on Green Energy: Increasing Hydrogen in Spirulina Derived Photobiological System." A Fourth Place Grand Award went to Mali’o Kodis, Waiakea HS, Senior for his project: Diversity of Foliar Fungal Endophytes in Wild and Cultured Metrosideros polymorpha Inferred from Environmental PCR and ITS Sequence Data. Hawaii Science and Engineering FairA Fourth Place Team Award went to Michael Flynn & Taylor Nakamura, Maui HS, Juniors for their project: Muon Detection at Elevation. In addition Michael Flynn won an all expense paid trip by the European Union to CERN and perhaps lucky enough to visit the Hadron Collider. The photos here were taken at the Hawaii Science and Engineering Fair back in April 2010 at the Hawaii Convention Center. It's quite a spectacle to see all the students immersed in their projects and a testament to the skill level of Hawaii's students. As reported last week the Hawaii Academy of Science received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to the tune of $425K. Enough to keep things running for another year and then some.