This is the ʻIke Leʻa science facility—a 26-million dollar structure that represents a giant step forward in the evolution of the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College.
“It elevates the quality of education for all of the students here at Maui College and for our entire county of Maui so we are very excited,” said UH Maui College Chancellor Clyde Sakamoto.
The one story, concrete and steel building stands 45 feet tall and houses a teaching observatory with telescopes, and state-of-the-art laboratories for astronomy, optics, physics, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology and the marine sciences. ʻIke Leʻa replaces four labs in the old science building constructed in the 1970s.
“We were sharing labs all the time so we were constantly setting them up and tearing them down and therefore couldn’t do any long range experiments in there,” said Sally Irwin, a UH Maui College genetics professor.
“The equipment and facilities were so outdated, we really couldn’t do anything,” agreed Richard Allen, a chemistry professor at UH Maui College.
Classes began transitioning to the new facility after a January 11, 2013 dedication and blessing ceremony. The transition is expected to be complete before the end of the spring semester.
The opening of ʻIke Leʻa opens up a world of possibilities for the college and its students.
“I think they will really get a taste for what it is like to work in a modern lab and it will give them more lab courses that we have not been able to offer in the past,” said Irwin.
“I am in awe actually to see everything so new and that the students will actually get to work in these labs is actually pretty amazing,” said UH Maui College student Lindsay Komai.
The ability to do research may have the biggest impact.
“It generates grants,” said Allen. “It generates income. It gives a reason for students to be here.”
“We’ll be able to give students more opportunities for internships to do research and pursue degrees that we have not been able to offer in the past,” said Irwin.
ʻIke Leʻa is also serving as an example of the possibilities when it comes to renewable energy technologies. A photovoltaic array and wind turbines on the roof generate up to 25 percent of the building’s energy. There is also a rooftop garden and light tubes providing natural light to the rooms below.
“This is probably one of the coolest buildings they have on the lot,” said student Wyatt Tanner, a UH Maui College freshman. “The architecture just makes it seem futuristic and I love the solar panels and wind mills they did on the top. It’s a pretty inspiring building to say the least.”