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Maui youth mentored by UH astronomers

James and Anica Ancheta participate in the week-long Hawaii Student/ Teacher Astronomy Research program hosted by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy at the UH-Maui College Campus in Kahului. University of Hawaii photo

The Maui News

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy hosted its annual summer program in person this year for middle and high school students from the Valley Isle.

From May 30 through June 3 for the Hawaii Student/ Teacher Astronomy Research program, or HI STAR, nine students worked under the supervision of UH astronomers and graduate students on projects ranging from asteroids to black holes at the UH Maui College campus.

This is the first time in two years HI STAR hosted the program in person. During the pandemic, students were mentored virtually on Zoom.

“The goal is to give the students real world experiences in empirical research in astronomy,” said J.D. Armstrong, HI STAR program director, in a news release. “At the conclusion of their week of learning and collaborating with their teammates, the students are expected to deliver their findings at a symposium-style presentation for their friends, family and peers.”

During the program, the students developed skills in scientific analysis, and gained proficiency in communication and presentation, according to a news release.

Since the program’s inception in 2007, about 75 percent of HI STAR students have gone on to enter the regional science fair and win awards at state and international levels.

Many have also been offered scholarships to prestigious universities and some have co-authored peer-reviewed scientific papers while still in high school.

King Kekaulike High School student Giullia Porter is interested in stellar seismology or earthquakes on stars. The 17-year-old, who aspires to go into mechanical engineering, said she is thankful for the one-on-one guidance she received from the astronomers during the program.

“I remember the first time I put on my glasses and looked up at the sky, I was like, ‘Whoa, okay, there’s a lot of stars, that’s really cool,’ “ Porter said. “And ever since then it was always interesting to me but it kind of became more fascinating once I could really see the magnitude of it.”

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