This past May, 27 Hawaiʻi middle and high schools students participated in a virtual innovation challenge as part of the Hawaiʻi STEM Conference 2020. The online competition, hosted by STEMworks Hawaiʻi in partnership with Malama Maunalua, involved utilizing locally sourced, natural materials to design an oyster cage for Malama Maunalua’s new aquaculture, bioremediation initiative.
During the hackathon, the participants heard from experts and learned about native Hawaiian plants that were used in the past for fishing. Then the students tested their scientific engineering design skills to research and design solutions. The online project-based learning platform BizzyB guided the students in creating a business plan, collaborating remotely, receiving mentor feedback, and finally converting their plan into a pitch-style presentation.
The students overwhelmingly enjoyed the experience. Hackathon Winner Eda commented, “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.”
Turning Concept into Reality
Nine students from the contest have now entered Phase Two and are working hard to bring the project to reality. Through a four-week summer internship with STEMworks, which started July 1st, these students formed two teams to further refine the top two oyster cage designs. They are testing the expandable design by POP (Pacific Oyster Pods) and the modular dim sum steamer-inspired design by the Green Mean Oyster Machine. Students will be awarded with a $500 stipend at the end of the four weeks.
Once they have a working prototype, they will move to Phase Three and learn the ins and outs of starting a business, patents, manufacturing and more, under the guidance of the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) business team. The ultimate goal is for the students to move through the process from research to design, prototype, and finally market. In the marketing stage, they sell a product that they invented.
According to STEMworks Program Manager Katie Taladay, “This cross-organizational collaboration takes project-based learning and workforce development to a whole new level. Even while facing the challenges of quarantine, we proved we can engage students and carry out a meaningful mission at the same time. By participating in hands-on concept development activities, students learn creative problem-solving and other power skills that are increasingly demanded in the business world.”