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TMT’s THINK Fund Promotes STEM for Big Island Students

Posted June 13, 2017, 03:26 PM HST
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THINK Fund courtesy image.

Nearly 10 years ago, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) tasked a group of Hawai‘i Island leaders to determine how best to use $1 million a year for STEM education. After meeting for two years, the group fleshed out what is now The Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund and enlisted the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Pauahi Foundation to finalize the fund’s details.

Officially launched in 2014, the THINK Fund is making a big difference in the lives of Hawai‘i Island students and teachers through scholarships, classroom projects, an endowment and grants. To date, TMT has given $3 million to the THINK Fund to promote STEM initiatives for Hawaii Island students.

The latest example of the THINK Fund’s impact on the island is $1 million in Hawai‘i STEM Learning Partnership granted to 35 Hawai‘i Island programs by the Hawaii Community Foundation. Key funding support was provided by the THINK Fund, with other funders coming forward to support the grants to public, charter, private and immersion schools, nonprofits and after-school enrichment programs.

The grantees provide local youth with internships, career exploration and field research experiences. Teachers and mentors are also receiving training and equipment to better engage students. The diverse learning opportunities span Hawai‘i Island and will involve more than 12,000 students and 900 educators.

The 2017 recipients include public, charter, and Hawaiian immersion, elementary, middle and high schools from Kona, Kea‘au, Waimea, Honoka‘a and Hilo, as well as UH Hilo, and include college internships.

The grants support subjects ranging, for example, from robotics, agriculture, and wildlife management to marine biology, math, microbiology, Hawaiian language and computer coding.

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Innovative programs which received grants are based in such places as Volcanos National Park, the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, a Marine Mammal Center, and a Waimea Culinary Garden.

“Ultimately, the goal is to strengthen the Hawai‘i Island workforce by helping students build their strategic thinking skills and increase their abilities to tackle real life, local projects and job opportunities, and that’s exactly what’s happening,” said Roberta Chu, THINK Fund advisory committee chair. “The foresight that the Hawai‘i Island leaders had in helping to develop the THINK Fund is incredible and it has evolved into a lasting legacy that will benefit our future generations for many years to come.”

The Thirty Meter Telescope’s $1 million annual contribution is distributed through the THINK Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation ($750,000) for grants, scholarships and endowment and the THINK Fund at Pauahi Foundation ($250,000) for scholarships.

About TMT
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Project has been developed as collaboration among Caltech, the University of California (UC), the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), and the national institutes of Japan, China, and India with the goal to design, develop, construct, and operate a thirty-meter class telescope and observatory on Mauna Kea in cooperation with the University of Hawaii (TMT Project). The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO), a non-profit organization, was established in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT Project. The Members of TIO are Caltech, UC, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada); the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a TIO Associate. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.

For more information about the TMT project, visit tmt.org.

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