Contest Seeks Designs for 2022 Maunakea Coin

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Part of the mission of the Maunakea Observatories is to share their discoveries with Big Island students and the public. And sometimes, getting that conversation started can be as simple as minting a coin.

The Mauna Kea Astronomy Outreach Committee, in conjunction with annual AstroDay events and activities, is again seeking designs for a coin featuring Maunakea. The Maunakea Coin Contest runs through March 21 and Big Island students in grades K-12, including those who are home-schooled, are encouraged to get creative and enter as many times as they want.

“We are looking for designs that represent Maunakea and all aspects related to the mountain,” said Nadine Manset, one of the organizers of the contest who also is a resident astronomer and queued service observing manager at Canada, France, Hawai’i Telescope.

Past designs have featured plants and animals of cultural significance, such as kalo and honu; constellations; the moon; and the observatories themselves, sometimes drawn with traditional kapa designs. Manset said judges are amazed each year by the new ideas drawn and submitted by students for the contest.

“The creativity of students seems endless!” she told Big Island Now in an email.

To enter the contest, students must draw a design on the official design sheet, which is available on the web. The design must be drawn in black ink, must represent Maunakea and must include elements of culture, astronomy and nature found on or around the mauna.


The design also must be suitable for making a coin that will have a final size of 1.5 inches in diameter.

First-, second- and third-place winners will be selected from three categories: grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12. Each of those winners will receive a KTA gift certificate, medal and certificate, 2022 bronze coin and a selection of prizes such as pens, magnets, pins, hats, stickers and postcards.

From those nine winners, three overall winners will be selected. Those top three will also receive a prize from the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, a prize from the Galaxy Garden, an additional KTA gift certificate, a Hawaiian Starlight DVD, a plaque and a certificate.

The top winner will have their design selected to be featured on the 2022 coin.

The number of submissions has varied through the years from a couple hundred to close to a thousand, according to Manset.


The contest is sponsored by KTA Super Stores, the Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee, the Maunakea Observatories, the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, Galaxy Garden and other partners including the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems and the Maunakea Visitor Information Station.

Manset said a few hundred coins are minted in a bronze version each year, which is available for sale. About 3,000 aluminum coins are minted and distributed for free.

“The coins are used when astronomers and astronomy educators visit classrooms, at science or craft fairs, during stargazing events or any outreach activity related to science, technology or astronomy,” she said.

The contest began in 2011 and has a long partnership with AstroDay.

Manset said that when AstroDay is done in person in May in Hilo, the Maunakea Coin Contest awards ceremony happens that morning. Those attending AstroDay also can collect stamps at the booths setup in Prince Kuhio Plaza and receive an aluminum coin when they present their completed passport.


If AstroDay activities are conducted in a virtual format or with social distancing guidelines, contest winners are announced online.

“The coin contest is a fun activity that lets students research the various aspects of Maunakea and then express through art how they see the mountain,” Manset said. “The contest was created to let students reflect upon the importance of Maunakea, a truly unique and majestic mountain. The environment features fauna and flora that are not found anywhere else on the planet. The mountain holds a significant place in the local culture. It is also the best site for astronomy in the world.”

The coin and the contest also help spark conversations about astronomy, which is exactly what the Maunakea Observatories want to share with anyone and everyone willing to listen.

“The coin allows us to talk about the mountain, its importance for astronomers, the observatories that explore the skies from its summit area and the discoveries made year after year,” Manset said.

For more information or to submit a design for the 2022 Maunakea Coin Contest, click here. For information about this year’s AstroDay, click here.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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