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High Schoolers to Get Telescope Time on Maunakea

May 27, 2017, 3:01 PM HST
* Updated May 31, 9:26 AM
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DOE Superintendent Kathy Matayoshi (left), CFHT Director Doug Simons (center) and UH President David Lassner (right) signed a collaborative agreement today to make telescope time available to Hawai‘i’s high school students. Photo courtesy of University of Hawai‘i.

A new educational partnership between some of Hawai‘iʻs leading academic institutions will provide unprecedented opportunities for local high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through the Maunakea Scholars program.

On Friday, May 26, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Director Doug Simons, University of Hawai‘i (UH) President Lassner and Department of Education (DOE) Superintendent Kathy Matayoshi gathered to finalize the collaborative agreement at UHʻs Institute for Astronomy (IFA).

“The observatories on Maunakea are the best in the world,” said Lassner. “This collaboration will provide some of our own high school students from across the islands with unprecedented opportunities to conduct real research as we work to grow the next generation of world-class astronomers here at home.”

The finalized memorandum of understanding will create an official working group to ensure the Maunakea Scholars programʻs continued success. The group will play a crucial role in developing problem-solving curricula that will help high school students prepare for college and future careers.

“Students are most successful when they are offered hands-on, innovative opportunities that allow them to be fully immersed in what they are studying,” said Matayoshi. “Maunakea Scholars puts the student in the shoes of the astronomer not just for a day, but a lifetime. It’s truly been an honor to be a part of this endeavor in elevating Hawai‘i’s schools as leaders in STEM.”

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Maunakea Scholars is designed to bring Hawai‘i high school students into the highly advanced local observatory community. It is the first program of its kind in the world to reserve viewing time at major observatories to educate students.

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To qualify, students in participating school must do astronomical research and create a detailed proposal that can be conducted at an observatory. Selected proposals will be matched with graduate students of IFA and observatory staff to mentor students through their research.

“It has been fascinating and inspirational to see these students formulate ingenious observing proposals,” said Simons. “These students never thought they’d have access to the most powerful telescopes in the world to conduct their own research and it’s remarkable to see the magic that occurs when they are provided with the tools and confidence to make it happen.”

The current schools participating in Maunakea Scholars on Hawai‘i Island include Waiākea High School and Honoka‘a High School. On O‘ahu, they are Kapolei High School, Kalani High School and Nanakuli High School.

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Six observatories have committed to provide telescope time for student research including Canada-France-Hawai‘i (CFHT), Gemini Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (operated by East Asian Observatory), Las Cumbres Observatory, NASA Infrared Telescope and Subaru Telescope.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is supporting the partnership by providing a cultural education initiative.

Maunakea Scholars was initiated by CFHT and Gemini Observatory, in partnership with the Maunakea Observatories and the DOE. The program launched in 2015 to grant aspiring young astronomers access to the tools and people within the Hawai‘i observatory community.

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