Students Get Glimpse of High Tech Future

Super computers and top secret observatories visited.

Students use 3D glasses to watch satellites circle the Earth in real time at the High Performance Computing Center in the Maui High Tech Park.



 By Howard Selnick

You would not believe the amount of doors that were unlocked for our Molokai middle school team to participate in a three-day technical career program held on Maui for students throughout this school district. The Maui Economic Development Board created this program, in part to expose our students to job opportunities on Maui in the field of computer technology.

Our first day's activities that were held in the Maui High Tech Park in Kihei introduced our students to a panel of young adults now working in various companies located within this complex. These panelists, including a team from Akimeka LLC (which was started by a “Molokai boy”), shared their personal stories about working in this profession. They also invited our students to ask questions and answered them with very personal comments designed to help our students ease their way into this professional world.

The panelists all agreed that they had no idea they would be able to stay at home on Maui and work in such an interesting and exciting career.

We were taken on tours throughout the High Performance Computing Center in the Maui High Tech Park to see, first hand, some of the programs being run there, including one that tracks about 9,000 satellites and other pieces of space garbage every hour in real time, another that runs a detailed inventory of all medical resources throughout the world and a third that keeps track of injured U.S. military personnel.

The Maui High Performance Computing Center is the 11th most powerful computer system in the world. And it is within our reach as a place of employment.

Our last day on Maui provided us with extreme points of view. During a tour of a restricted area controlled by the Air Force at Haleakula, we saw a top secret cluster of observatories that are linked to various universities and U.S. military facilities throughout the world.

We also were able to pay respect to cultural integrity during this tour. We participated in a discussion that showed us the need for cultural respect no matter where we go. How do we respect and treat the "aina"? The military director explained that a $1.6-million facility was abandoned because an endangered Silversword plant was found growing next to the site. The facility, which was greatly needed to resurface one of the telescope’s multi-million-dollar, 8,000-pound mirrors, had to be relocated. In fact, the entire staff that works atop Haleakula must go through a cultural training program to become aware of Hawaiian protocol and the past problems faced by new workers as they arrive in Hawaii.

So we now come full circle to this activity. For it is the purpose of the Middle School Tech Career program to help eliminate cultural and economic problems.

Our student group has toured these facilities to experience what it would be like to work in the High Performance Computing lab and the observatory complex atop Haleakula. They are the next generation of specialists to work at this complex. And it is, in part, up to our Molokai community to support our students by opening this door for them.

Most of the people we met working on our tour had smiles on their faces. The average salary there is about $70,000. Our students have been there, and they now know what they can achieve given their efforts in studying are supported. This is the primary purpose of this activity, to show our students there are exciting, high-paying jobs here on the island that are waiting for them if they are willing to stop saying “I hate math,” “I hate language arts” and focus their attention.

The cost of our two-and-a-half-day tour on Maui was in the thousands of dollars. It is with great appreciation that we say Mahalo nui loa to the Maui Economic Development Board for planning, arranging and financing this program for our Maui district students.


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