$1.1 Million for Innovative ‘Imiloa Mobile Science Laboratory

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BY MARGOT SCHIRE – HILO, HAWAII -The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded $1.1 million to support ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i’s efforts to take its cutting edge science education programs on the road via a mobile science laboratory. The grant will be used to design and construct the mobile science unit; develop curriculum, training and staffing plans; transport and operate the lab in communities across Hawai‘i Island; and evaluate the project’s effectiveness.

This is the second time the Foundation has awarded a grant to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.  The first grant, which commenced in 2008, had the goal of bringing all K-12 Hawai‘i Island schoolchildren to the center on subsidized field trips over a two-year period. The success of the project engendered a significant outpouring of community support via a 2:1 matching funds campaign which raised nearly $160,000 in additional private donations.  ‘Imiloa also gave visiting children a “free pass” invitation to take home to their parents so they could come back at a later date of their choosing to experience ‘Imiloa with their families.


“The Moore Foundation’s commitment to the future of our island and our state through this grant will undoubtedly have broad and far-reaching impact,” said Ka‘iu Kimura, Executive Director of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. “We are incredibly grateful for the Moore Foundation’s continued support of our work to inspire Hawai‘i’s future innovators and explorers and what it means to our tight-knit community. We are hopeful that this mobile science laboratory will reach children and families in rural communities who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit our center together on field trips or family visits.”

By focusing on hands-on science education, ‘Imiloa’s new state-of-the-art mobile learning platform will build the center’s capacity to engage and inspire young people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and provide an environment where they can immerse themselves in interactive science experiences that allow them to play, investigate and experiment.   Studies show that informal science education activities like these can stimulate curiosity and deepen interest in the sciences during school years and throughout a lifetime.

“This project will allow ‘Imiloa and UH Hilo to reach students and families in rural areas of our island through applied learning experiences that can inspire new passions for science,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney.  “At UH Hilo, we have adopted the Hawaiian saying ‘A‘ ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho‘okahi, meaning that one learns from many sources.  Our University inspires learning, discovery and creativity inside and outside the classroom.  The Moore Foundation’s support of ‘Imiloa will enable us to expand our delivery of educational programs far beyond the classroom and in ways that ensure transformational benefits for youth across the island and State.”

The mobile learning platform is currently in the preliminary planning stages.  Officials have not yet determined whether the mobile lab will be a high-tech trailer or truck, however, ‘Imiloa does plan to incorporate the latest in green technology, with plans for an environmentally conscious and sustainable design.  Plans also call for a portable digital planetarium that can share the same planetarium shows featured onsite at ‘Imiloa; a portable Hawaiian Star Compass; and ‘Imiloa loaner trunk kits designed to engage families in STEM through hands-on science activities.

“The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is committed to creating positive outcomes for future generations,” said Vicki L. Chandler, Ph.D., Chief Program Officer for Science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.  “The ‘Imiloa Mobile Science Project will be key in exposing future generations to the wonders of science on Hawai‘i Island. We are proud to have a role in creating an opportunity for a new learning environment that will stimulate science education across Hawai‘i.”

For more information about supporting the programs at ‘Imiloa, please contact ‘Imiloa’s Development Office at (808) 969-9732 or email nverissimo@imiloahawaii.org