go EAST to get
The national high schoolBy Gary Kubota
program teams up with a
county tech effort to raise
skills and initiative
LAHAINA -- Ben Pigao stood in front of the historic Seamen's Hospital in Lahaina and recorded video images of the building, as other students plotted its location using global positioning instruments connected to satellites.
The survey project, conducted under a national high school program known as EAST -- Environmental and Spatial Technology -- is designed to improve a student's computer literacy and problem-solving skills.
"It's much more than I expected," said Pigao, 15, a Maui High School sophomore who participated in the two-week class.
It also has become a part of a Maui County initiative announced yesterday by Mayor James Apana that plans to put 1,400 computers in classrooms from elementary through high school.
The initiative will be putting a computer in every public classroom, library and youth center in Maui County.
The initiative, "Tech Ready: Preparing Maui County Students for the New Economy," is a partnership of the Maui community and various private companies.
It is designed to provide students on Maui, Lanai and Molokai with a smoother transition into higher education or a computer-literate work force.
Apana said the goal is to raise $1.5 million to fund both EAST programs and the purchase of 1,400 computers from Sun Microsystems, which has agreed to match the $1.5 million with a donation of equipment and software.
"The county's partnership with Sun Microsystems and project EAST will contribute significantly to building our islands' future work force by providing the technology skills needed for workers to successfully compete in the new economy," Apana said.
About half of the $1.5 million has already been raised through contributions by a number of major groups, including the Weinberg Foundation, Maui Hotel Association and Sandwich Isle Communications Inc.
"It's a great opportunity," said Elizabeth Hoxie, deputy district superintendent for education on Maui.
Hoxie said the computers have arrived on Maui and that students at Lahainaluna and Maui high schools will be participating in the EAST program.
Hoxie said the students are excited about the EAST program, which uses state-of-the-art computer technology, including software to develop Web pages, computer-aided design, desktop publishing, programming and 3-D animation.
The EAST program is open to students in grades 10 to 12.
Educators say EAST, which began in Arkansas and now involves close to 100 school districts in six to eight states, develops critical thinking and problem-solving ability.
"This is where we're headed," Hoxie said. "This is our future."
At the first EAST project on Maui this summer, some 30 students from Arkansas and 18 students from Hawaii worked together with help from government and nonprofit groups.
Projects included a Web site of Maui historic sites in Lahaina, a resource guide on how to prevent and fight forest fires, and a catalog of archaeological and historic sites of a land division once occupied by King Kamehameha I.
Many students worked with global positioning system (GPS) instruments to chart the location of sites. They used an array of software to transfer and create video images in a computer.
Eventually, the students designed Web pages or arranged text for publication.
"The whole point of the program is learning to learn on your own," said Jan Hill, project facilitator and teacher at Russellville High School in Arkansas.
Pigao said the EAST project enabled him to use sophisticated software, such as FrontPage to develop a Web site and SoftImage for 3-D animation.
"I think it's great," he said.