Mary Beth Laychack, outreach manager, Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope and Elijah Kogler, student, Kapolei High School

Maunakea Observatories staff gathered with students, teachers and families across the state to award the 2017–2018 school year winners of the Maunakea Scholars program. Educators, observatory staff and community leaders congratulated students at both King Kekaulike High School and Kapolei High School on their tremendous efforts and briefly spoke on each of the winning proposals. The 2017–2018 program represents the first time students from Maui have participated in the Maunakea Scholars program.

Students in the Maunakea Scholars program spend months working alongside mentors from the University of Hawaiʻi’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA), analyzing data and preparing professional-style research proposals in areas of their own personal interest. The student proposals which are deemed most creative, scientifically promising and technically viable are awarded telescope time to facilitate advanced research.

King Kekaulike High School students were mentored by IfA Maui Technical Education and Outreach Specialist JD Armstrong, and Kapolei High School students were mentored by IfA graduate students Maissa Salama and Travis Berger.

“We are delighted to see the Maunakea Scholars program continue to grow with our first student participants from Maui and ongoing engagement on Oʻahu,” said Mary Beth Laychak, outreach manager for Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope. “The imaginative and passionate student proposals from the 2017–2018 program participants piqued our interest and demonstrated what we already know to be true—astronomy has a special place in Hawaiʻi.”

Winning proposals from King Kekaulike High School

  • Janine Harris—Cepheid Magnitude Periods
  • Ryan Siarot and Thorn Refugio—Observing Asteroid Colors to Determine Composition
  • Quinton Uradomo—Dark Matter
  • Kayla Wohlers and Caroline Stevenson—Deep Into The Storm
  • Quentin Beamer—White Dwarf Formation Temperatures

Winning proposals from Kapolei High School

  • Tavita Vaitului—New Life
  • Elijah Kogler and Noah Kolona—Does the Orbit of Sagittarius A Affect the Surrounding Stars?

Those who are awarded telescope time are paired with a mentor, as well as telescope staff, to individually assist and guide them through their research. Past students have used their telescope time to explore black holes, exoplanets, comets, search for signs of life and much more.