For this month's Ka'ana Mana'o, we asked University of Hawaii Maui College Astronomy and Oceanography faculty member John Pye, "The Science Guy," to give us the long view of the college's growing science, technology, engineering and math program and the new science building that will house it.
Over the past 40 years, the college has evolved dramatically to keep pace with the demands of the modern workforce and provide the best possible training and education for our students. A dramatic turn is on the horizon with the completion of our new science building.
The original science building, called Noi'i, was built in 1970 on what was then the Maui Community College campus, a very different place in those days with a total enrollment of 1,058 students. Only a small number of programs required supporting science courses since the college had only recently evolved from its technical school beginnings.
Fast forward to 2012 and you'll find a much different picture, with rapidly increasing enrollment in STEM programs and more classes devoted to it. Noi'i is now filled to capacity. Three labs are housed on the second floor alone (biology, chemistry and physics), accommodating up to 72 students, and with enrollments generally exceeding 300 students per semester, sharing labs with different science sections is an ongoing scheduling challenge. Three lecture classrooms downstairs can accommodate approximately 120 students, far less than the daily demand. Scheduling challenges mean it's harder for students to get the classes they need to fit into their busy schedules.
So faculty and students will be fortunate to soon call a new 31,272-square-foot science building home.
This science facility will accommodate the college's increasing enrollments (more than 4,500 last fall) and provide support for our liberal arts students as well as programs such as nursing, electronics and four-year degree programs including engineering technology and sustainable science management. It will house dedicated teaching labs for astronomy, optics, physics, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology and the marine sciences, where students will work with industry and research partners. Students will also receive hands-on training and research experience through a variety of internship programs in areas such as astronomy and space science, optics and instrumentation, the marine and biological sciences, engineering technology and sustainable science.
An adjacent facility will house a teaching observatory with telescopes and instrumentation to support labs and student research. The new building includes a 120-seat lecture hall and an additional 36-seat classroom. Science students will enjoy a dedicated student study center and resource library located adjacent to faculty offices, finally bringing together the UH-Maui College science teaching faculty in one common area. This will foster faculty and student interaction, and help promote some of our scientific interdisciplinary initiatives.
It's an extremely complex facility, requiring more energy to run and maintain safety standards than a simple classroom building. So faculty and vice chancellors have worked hard to meet these new demands by designing and building the facility with maximum energy efficiency in mind, the most visible perhaps being the photovoltaic array and small wind turbines on the roof that will generate an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the building's energy needs.
The new facility, named 'Ike Le'a, will be certifiable as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design project. If all goes according to schedule, we anticipate offering our first classes in 'Ike Le'a beginning in the spring 2013 semester, and look forward to welcoming students into our newest building.
And just in case you're wondering, after our move is complete, the original science building, Noi'i, will be getting a new life when it's renovated to accommodate the allied health program on campus.
* Clyde Sakamoto is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka'ana Mana'o, which means "sharing thoughts," is scheduled to appear on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.