two boys looking at slides with an instructor explaining what they are seeing
Physics booth in full swing

Homelessness has grown in Hawaiʻi for a fifth consecutive year according to Hawaiʻi News Now (June 29, 2016). This alarming number is resonating among the University of Hawaiʻi mathematicians. A strong bond has developed over the past five years between the UH Mānoa Department of Mathematics and the family program at The Institute of Human Services (IHS).

girl looking into a microscope
Learning to use a microscope

“Child homelessness is widespread in Hawaiʻi and in a life filled with uncertainty they face unique barriers to education,” said Professor Monique Chyba. “Through an active collaboration between our two institutions, our goal is to provide underprivileged students opportunities they would not have access to otherwise.”

On December 2, Chyba and a team of UH Mānoa faculty and students created a mathematics, engineering and science lab at IHS for the fifth Be a Scientist Night. The College of Natural Sciences, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology and College of Engineering came together to teach the scientific process and share an evening of discoveries with the community. Young children from IHS also got to learn alongside visiting mathematician Ken Ono from Emory University. The evening brought a diverse group of people together to reach a common goal.

Attendees built and controlled Mars rovers at the robotics station, observed microorganisms through a microscope and learned about native birds and instrumentation to measure biochemical species in the environment. They also learned about binary coding through a magic trick and knot theory for sail and net building.

“The children amazed us with their focus and interest in some of the activities we thought could be challenging—they embraced the station on Euler characteristic of platonic solids with joy and passion,” said Chyba.

The event a hit with young scientists

Enjoying slide squares

“Thank you so much for an unforgettable experience for our IHS guests and community. I was mind blown on all the educational booths,” said Amber Leon Guerrero, a manager of the family program at IHS. “Our guests, families and children extend their deepest gratitude for exposing them to educational materials, that truly affects their growth and enhances their knowledge and learning.”

In addition to the STEM activities, light food and drinks were served thanks to generous donations from UH faculty and Kokua Market.