Local Hawai’i Organizations get a Boost!

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Seven of Hawai’i’s local non-profit and governmental organizations got a boost from 26 college students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) – Worcester, Massachusetts.   Over 7 weeks in Honolulu, these students experienced our culture, our people, and lent their science and technology skills to address real world problems/challenges that these organizations face.

How it works:

WPI develops collaborative relationships with local organizations who sponsor student projects. The most important contribution sponsors make is to provide student teams with a real problem of interest and chosen by the organization. Students thrive when tasked with a problem that is meaningful to them and that matters to someone else. Especially significant is that the students, very technically proficient apply their skills to real problems and situations. The university does not ask for project fees from sponsors, instead students receive academic credit for their project work.  The Hawaii organizations get a boost in the form of student work product.    It’s a win-win. 

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This year’s projects and recipients were:  

Genki Ala Wai:  

The Genki Ala Wai Project’s mission is to transform one of Hawaii’s most polluted waterways into a “swimmable and fishable” water body in a few short years. By engaging the K-12 schools and the broader community, including visitors.   WPI Project:  Developed a Website That Fosters Enhanced Interaction Among Teachers, Students, and the Community. Website: Genki Ala Wai Project

Genki Balls
Genki Balls for Genki Ala Wai project

Maka’ alamihi Gardens:  

Hawaii imports approximately 80-85% of its food from the mainland and relies heavily on cargo ships to deliver the goods. As the most isolated land mass in the world, reliant on imported food, Hawaii is a long way from being food secure. There is merit to tapping into home grown produce to augment food availability in our community. WPI students designed a collaborative and presented it at the Capitol.       Project:  Designed a Model Community Food Security Collaborative       Sponsors: Stacy and Carl Evensen

Conservation International Hawaii:   

Conservation International (CI) is a global conservation organization working collaboratively with local communities, governments, and other organizations in over 30 countries towards a healthier and more sustainable future. WPI students studied market feasibility of fish leather and fish broth. Project: Feasibility of value added products to reduce seafood waste in Hawaii. Website: Hawai’i (conservation.org)

Lyon Arboretum:

The Arboretum spans nearly 200 acres and is open to the public Monday through Friday. It offers 7 miles of hiking trails, and visitors can observe over 5000 taxa of plants from tropical and subtropical regions. The Arboretum’s mission is to “inspire and cultivate the conservation of tropical plant biodiversity and connect it to the culture of Hawai’i through education and research.” Project:  Designed interpretive and wayfinding signage. Website:  Lyon Arboretum | A University of Hawaii Research Unit

Honolulu Botanical Gardens- Ho’omaluhia:

An average of 1600 visitors come to explore the garden daily. That’s 600,000 visitors annually! As a result, stressors on visitor experience rose dramatically: over-using easily accessible areas while underutilizing others, self-limiting visits for lack of directions and guidance, and hesitations to explore trails for fear of being lost. Project: Wayfinding Enhancement Study  Website: HBG Ho`omaluhia (honolulu.gov)

Surfrider Foundation:

The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people. The protection and restoration of the Wāwāmalu coastline has been a focus of the community however, restoration efforts are challenged by the lack of available fresh water. Project:  Wāwāmalu Dune Restoration-water tank solution.  Website:  Hawai’i Region | Surfrider Foundation

Amazing Care Network (ACN):   

ACN is an organization dedicated to the notion that it takes a village to age well. Its programs are designed to educate adults- including those in or entering their senior years, and their families, about the issues that confront us as we age.  Project: Identified support needs of our aging community members and their caregivers. Website: Amazing Care Network | It Takes a Village To Age Well.

Award Winning Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Global Program in Hawaii

Worcester?  How do you pronounce that?  Worchestershire? No.  “Wister”, like in twister!  Hawaii folks, know Boston, Harvard, Yale, Boston College.   Add Worcester Polytechnic Institute to that list. WPI is quite impressive.   The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a private research university in Worcester, Massachusetts, its’ curriculum is focused on project-based learning, US News and World Reports 2024 college rankings has WPI solidly in the top 20% of National Universities, and Best Value Schools.  Founded in 1865, WPI was one of the United States’ first engineering and technology universities and now has 14 academic departments with over 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts. WPI awards bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees.

As a signature element of WPI’s project-based learning, the Global Projects Program gives students the opportunity to complete required research projects off-campus.  WPI has over 50 global project centers, spanning 6 continents.       The directory reads exotic places like Ghana, Uruguay, Thailand, China, Romania, Costa Rica, Panama… and lucky us, HAWAII!  

Dr. Lauren Mathews, WPI’s Global Project Director: 

“This year we had a total of 24 students that worked on their “junior year” Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP).   The IQP is a “project which relates technology and science to society or human needs.” Generally, IQPs solve a societal problem using technology. The IQP serves to emphasize team-based work and introduces a real-world responsibility absent from courses.   

We also had 2 students who worked on their “senior year” Major Qualifying Project (MQP)  The MQP assesses knowledge in a student’s field of study. This project is similar to a senior thesis, with students doing independent research or design. Hawaii Center students worked with the Surfrider Foundation to design irrigation solutions for the Kaiwi Coast restoration.  

We are excited about our Hawaii Project Center, students become well-rounded and globally aware by working as part of a team to apply classroom knowledge and analytical thinking skills to real-world challenges. Hawaii is a very unique place, culturally rich and diverse.”

We are currently selecting organizations for 10 projects that will run in the Fall 2024, and Spring 2025.  For more information about getting involved or applying for a project for an organization, contact pamela.hinsdale@gmail.com

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