Sunday, March 30, 2008

interview with lynn fujioka

To all who support STEM education in Hawaii: Take a look in your Honolulu Advertiser today for the third annual STEM Hawaii, a special supplemental edition, published by The Honolulu Advertiser's Newspaper in Education Program, in partnership with isisHawaii.

Led by main sponsor, The Women in Technology Project/MEDB, this annual compendium brings community partners together to showcase successful science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs currently offered throughout the State of Hawaii.

This year's edition was also "unveiled" at the National Science Teachers Association Conference in Boston this week by Jeff Piontek, HIDOE State Science Specialist.

If you are interested in learning more about STEM Hawaii, please contact Lynn Fujioka at Mahalo!

i met Lynn last year and i can barely keep up with the millions of things that she does. the amazing thing is that nearly all of those things are for the betterment of the children of hawaii. and that is really awesome.

lynn is the executive director of isisHawaii. in this interview we learn much more about lynn, isisHawaii, her other organizations, and what really drives her.

here are some pictures from the various events that lynn and her organizations support:

Can you give our readers a short background information about yourself and the isisHawaii organization? Also, what motivates you to work so hard for this cause?

First of all, Happy Easter! Thanks for inviting me to participate in your blog.

isisHawaii is a non-profit organization that offers mentoring programs and connects industry to education. Our vision is to help provide the knowledge and skills necessary for our children to live and work successfully in Hawaii.

Since 2003, isisHawaii's primary focus has been on developing programs and collaborating with a network of stakeholders to excite students about science- and math-based fields.

What motivates me to work so hard for this cause? The realization that this nation -- once a world powerhouse and leader of industry and innovation -- has been losing its edge to emerging countries, particularly in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This loss is not just a national pride issue. America is not producing enough qualified graduates to replace the huge numbers of medical professionals, scientists, technologists and engineers leaving the field in the next 5-10 years (primarily due to retirement). It is already negatively impacting our healthcare system, innovation industries, education and national security. It affects us all.

The inspiration and preparation of students to consider entering these fields begins at a very early age and requires a sustained effort
throughout the child's education all the way through to workforce. It is not just the educational system's problem. Parents, administrators, legislators, industry, academia, media and the community at large should be focused on this crisis and how to work together towards solutions.

It's a long road and a very broad one. My hope is that isisHawaii can play a small role in helping to strengthen this pipeline

That is a very noble cause. I really identify with the vision; "Our vision is to help provide the knowledge and skills necessary for our children to live and work successfully in Hawaii."

Let's focus on some of the specifics a little.

What are some of the unique challenges that Hawaii faces?

From a STEM education perspective: Our multi-ethnic population provides us with the best of everything. It also creates challenges in education where these differences, from a national point of view, are not necessarily taken into consideration. In some cases, it is divisive. We are also geographically "isolated" (both from the Mainland and as an island state) and do not have direct access to many of the resources that Mainland school systems have (internships, funding, mentors, etc.). Travel expenses can be prohibitive, even from island to island, and often times prevent schools from participating in some very effective programs.

What is Hawaii doing right with respect to your vision? And, what can we do better?

I am seeing a lot of positive collaboration going on right now in STEM education. We live in a very small community and it really does "take a whole village to raise a child." The more we can work together, the better off everyone will be. Isn't that what we try to teach our children? Then, we must first set the example.

In your opinion, what is Hawaii's technology goal? Meaning, do you think that Hawaii wants to compete with places like Silicon Valley?

The business climate needs to be attractive to investors and innovators in order to grow the industry and diversify our economy. I do believe there is potential. Geographically, we are in a prime spot for global participation. I don't think it's a matter of choice anymore. It is a national imperative.

Thats great!

What are some specific examples of the "positive collaboration"?

A few that I am honored to be involved in include the recent surge in participation in scholastic robotics programs. Government, higher ed, industry, and like-minded organizations are banding together to support these programs from kindergarten through college with program coordination, mentoring, curriculum integration and funding.

The Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii has developed many successful outreach initiatives and continues to expand its scope. One highly successful program from the Maui Economic Development Board, Inc.'s Women in Technology Project is Project EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technologies). This program offers an in-curriculum project-based elective for middle and high school students. EAST provides the students with advanced technologies, like GPS/GIS and 3D animation software, to help solve real challenges in their own communities. Students work alongside community partners and industry mentors to fulfill program objectives. Already in 9 Neighbor Island schools since 2000, EAST is currently in the process of expanding to 4 more schools on Oahu.

Another opportunity that brings many key stakeholders to the table is our partnership with the Honolulu Advertiser's Newspaper in Education Program and the STEM Hawaii project. This compendium showcases many of the successful STEM programs currently offered throughout the State. It has been a great tool to spark discussion and further collaboration, in addition to serving as a public awareness campaign. Plugging our third annual edition look for its release on Wednesday, March 26th.

What kind of help do you need from industry?

Students always benefit from meeting local role models and working with mentors in fields of their interests. Being on the "front line" and working very closely with school administrators, teachers and students, isisHawaii can help connect industry and education in mutually beneficial partnerships. Particularly in advanced technologies, students need to know what is available in Hawaii and what they have to look forward to.

If I gave 10 million dollars to isisHawaii what would you do with the money?

A $10M endowment would help build an international STEM hub here in Hawaii. Our students need to start thinking globally and connecting them to other states and nations would be wonderful. International exchanges, teacher education, student enrichment, hands-on experiences and real-world application. Think tank for kids. What a concept! They could teach us a thing or two.

Thanks for the great responses. I think that wraps up another great interview. One last thing, can you quickly talk about Women in Technology?

Of course. In addition to running isisHawaii, I am also the Oahu Project Manager for The Women in Technology (WIT) Project. WIT is a demonstration project administered by the Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. and is funded by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Agriculture. It is a statewide workforce development initiative to encourage women, girls and other under represented minorities in to science- and math-based fields. Since 2003, Leslie Wilkins (WIT Program Director) has been my inspiration and mentor, as well as providing isisHawaii with its first seed-grant to launch the One+One E-mentoring Program.

Actually, as I was reviewing our discussions I wanted to learn more about the "statewide workforce development initiative to encourage women, girls and other under represented minorities in to science- and math-based fields. "

I don't know much about this area. Can you give us a short intro to the problem and your solutions?

The demand for qualified scientists and engineers is huge, however, the numbers of women and under represented minorities entering the workforce in STEM areas...except for still very low. For example, the percentages of women graduating in engineering has remained relatively unchanged for many years and is somewhere in the low 20's. (Hawaii numbers reflect the national average.) There is even a lower percentage that actually end up entering the workforce as engineers.

Women, ethnic minorities (e.g., Native Hawaiian/Alaskan, Pacific Islander) and people with disabilities represent the majority of the U.S. workforce and and remain the largest untapped market for science and engineering.

The drop off in interest, for girls at least, seems to be at a very early age -- somewhere around upper elementary and lower middle school. With positive intervention, like mentoring and hands-on project-based programs, girls engage and excel in math- and science-related activities. In fact, at that point, attraction isn't a matter of gender or ethnicity. Mentors and project-based hands-on activities engage students from every socio-economic background...regardless of academic standing. When students are shown the relevance of what they're learning in the classroom (i.e., rigor) to application, retention and interest increase dramatically. This effort, of course, must be sustained throughout the student's education until workforce entry. Even upon entering the workforce, mentoring programs continue to play an important role in the ultimate success of the individual.

Excited educators also make a huge difference. Students tend to take their lead from teachers who embrace technology and science. That's where private/public partnerships are critical -- where we, community supporters, can help enable our educators with current information and opportunities for relevant application. Programs, like isisHawaii and Women in Technology, are dedicated to connecting local industry and other like-minded organizations and institutions in support of STEM education in our schools. We offer teacher workshops, after-school activities, in-curriculum and mentoring programs designed to foster and sustain student interest in STEM, from elementary school to college, all the way into the workforce.

[end interview]

if you'd like to learn more about what lynn does please see the following resources:
  • isisHawaii
  • The mentoring gap for women in science
  • STEM Hawaii
  • RoboticsHawaii
  • Women in Technology
  • What is an engineer
  • Society of Women Engineers Hawaii

    there is so much more i want to learn about what lynn does. most of all i want to get involved and help. i hope that you are inspired to do the same too.
  • 1 comment:

    aaron said...

    i've cross posted this blog on techhui and dualuse. on the techhui site we got 11 discussion comments already and isisHawaii has been exposed to many of techhuis and dualuse's members. overall a very successful blog entry.

    please let me know if you'd like to participate in my blog interviews. i continuously search for new inspirations.