Amid COVID-19, STEMworks’ Hawaiʻi Students Compete in Virtual Hackathon

by | May 20, 2020 | Partners, Contests

“I felt very accomplished to finish this within less than two days or 20 hours. And it felt nice to collaborate with other people, especially since I haven’t been talking to much people in this quarantine.” – Eda, Hackathon Winner

“Was one of the best educational experiences for my students and myself. I really would like to start hosting more of these within my school to teach critical thinking skills.” – Mark Guaglione, Hackathon Mentor

“In a couple words… Holy cow! That was both terrifying and so much fun, because I’ve worked on projects like this before, but never in that time span. And we did so much in so little time. So I’m super proud of my team.” – Kawai, Hackathon Participant

On the heels of a successful 100% virtual online hackathon earlier this month for UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College, the online project-based learning platform was utilized by STEMworks Hawaiʻi to take the Hawaiʻi STEM Conference 2020 annual hackathon virtual. Twenty-seven students from Maui Waena Intermediate School, Moanalua High School, Punahou School, Kalama Intermediate School, Baldwin High School, Kihei Charter School, Lanai High & Elementary School participated in the event from May 8-9, 2020. The online competition involved utilizing locally sourced, natural materials to design an oyster cage for Malama Maunalua’s new aquaculture, bioremediation initiative.


First Place went to POP (Pacific Oyster Pods) winning Microsoft Xbox Consoles for their expandable red mangrove cage. Second Place went to OUO (The Ocean is Ur Oyster) winning Ryze Tello Edu Drones for their bamboo and recycled aluminum design. Third Place went Team Gold winning DIY Computer Speakers from KiwiCo for their weighted bamboo structure.

“Like so many events during this time, we needed to cancel the Hawaiʻi STEM Conference 2020 for the safety of our communities. In the days following, teachers and students reached out to express their disappointment at missing this opportunity for professional development and meaningful engagement with industry leaders,” said Katie Taladay, STEMworks Program Manager. “We began looking for opportunities to bring the highlights from the annual meeting to life VIRTUALLY – particularly the Hackathon portion. We are extremely excited that we had this opportunity to partner with BizzyB and Malama Maunalua to bring the STEMworks’ yearly hackathon challenge to our kids online!”

“When schools began closing due to Coronavirus, we made BizzyB free for the rest of the school year,” says BizzyB author and Bizgenics Foundation Chairman Steve Sue. “The quick response by educators to adopt our online distance learning platform has been inspiring. We have a steady stream of upcoming contests with schools, districts and nonprofits. All of them report a need to have tools that can easily switch from live to remote learning as future learning conditions in light of CIVD-19 remain uncertain.”

Mangrove-inspired cage design diagram next to photo of expandable ball

BizzyB’s approach combines self-directed learning, 4Cs learning (Creativity, Critical-Thinking, Collaboration & Communication), STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and SEL (Social Emotional Learning). The result is an online innovation Concept Canvas where student teams collaborate on five essential themes of an innovation project. This canvas supports remote collaboration via sidebar comment channels, built-in feedback surveys, pitch deck builder and showcase presentation functions. Mentors can view team content and advise remotely from anywhere, anytime. Team members also experience corporate leadership roles serving as facilitators of the five themes. 21st Century Soft Skill measurement standards are measured in the system by pre- and post-project user surveys. Outcomes are reported through contest public pages and through individual student portfolios that feature project summaries, awards, certifications, badges and Soft Skill assessments.

The event was sponsored by Microsoft, Office of Naval Research, Air Force Research Laboratory, County of Maui, Maui Economic Development Board Ke Alahele Education Fund, Hawaiian Electric, CyberHawaiʻi, and ESRI. It was produced by STEMworks in partnership with Malama Maunalua and Bizgenics Foundation.

Judges included Doug Harper, Kelii Kotubetey, Mahi La Pierre, and Rhiannon Chandler-Iao. Mentors consisted of Mark Loughridge, Eric Wen, Sheila Buyukacar, Alex Awo, Mark Guaglione, and Philippe Rosse.

Discover the idea behind the hackathon and read about how students are turning their concepts into reality.