She produced a paper on the importance of STEM initiatives in which she emphasized the untapped human resources, particularly women and minorities in STEM fields. As a critical part of her investigation, Aelyssa shadowed Mr. Marino Paguirino a project engineer at the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company. At HC&S, she learned about the different engineering professions and the equipment that these engineers used. She also found out about internships as well as jobs possible at HC&S. In addition, Mr. Paguirino offered her valuable college counseling.
As one of her goals, Aelyssa wanted to convey the importance of STEM work to younger students, so she received permission to present her project to pupils at nearby Kalama Intermediate. She faced the challenge of selecting an example that would demonstrate how STEM skills could be fun and engaging for middle school students. Aelyssa decided to create an Iron Man’s helmet from the popular Marvel Comics series. To construct the helmet, she used 3D modeling software like SolidWorks and AutoCAD. She effectively used the helmet as a visual centerpiece for her message that STEM opens a world of invention and creative problem solving. According to Aelyssa, the students loved the 3D helmet and were surprised that technology existed to create this object. She said that the students were intrigued and asked a lot of questions about STEM careers such as “What is considered a STEM career? How do I prepare for this type of work? Why are you choosing to study engineering?” Along with the knowledge that Aelyssa gained about STEM careers, she said that she definitely polished her social and presentation skills.
Aelyssa credited Ms. Emily Haines-Swatek, her design technology teacher, as her campus mentor. Aelyssa also acknowledged the valuable help she received throughout her project from Ms. Ketra Arcas, librarian; Mr. Eugene Kennedy, former English teacher at Maui High; and Ms. Jessica Bloomfield, English teacher.