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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 8, 2010

Isle science fair gets big lift from federal stimulus

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

Just hours before 22 Hawai'i students left to compete in an international science fair, the state boosted the program with federal stimulus money.

That support will ensure the Hawai'i State Science and Engineering Fair will be able to continue encouraging young minds to embrace math and science.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona yesterday announced that the state will give $425,000 to the Hawai'i State Science and Engineering Fair to fund the year-round program and to expand teacher training.

"It sends a very needed message that the state supports education, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math," said Eric DeCarlo, Hawai'i State Science and Engineering Fair executive council member and University of Hawai'i Department of Oceanography professor.

The grant is part of the governor's initiative to support science, technology, engineering and math education.

Students who are supported in these fields, Aiona said, will go on to provide an educated workforce for Hawai'i in the future.

Yesterday, 22 students from Hawai'i left for San Jose, Calif., to compete with 55 other countries in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest international pre-college science competition.

Last year, nearly 7,000 Hawai'i students participated in science fairs, 500 competed at the state level and 20 finalists competed at the international level with 55 other countries.

Kang Ying "Connie" Liu, the state science fair winner, left yesterday for San Jose with her presentation on triangle inequalities. The whiz kid from St. Andrew's Priory spent a year focusing on trying to find a streamlined approach to new geometric formulas for describing triangle inequalities.

"The science fair provides the opportunity to present a project," said Liu, 17. "It provides the motivation to do it."

Waiākea High School senior Nolan Kamitaki, who has been named a 2010 U.S. Presidential Scholar, said he has been a part of science fairs for six years. Kamitaki won second place in the senior research category for "Gene Dosage and Expression in Human Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines."

"Personally, the state science fair has contributed to who I am today," Kamitaki said. "It's a tremendous process. I've learned so much."

The science fair is put on by the Hawai'i Academy of Science, which was founded in 1925. The state had supported the academy until 2009, when the academy began to seek private donors.

"This allows us to improve and look at ways to extend our teacher training and to increase the awareness of science education in Hawai'i," academy president Gareth Wynn-Williams said.