GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bill Weicking, project manager of Maui Wireless Bus, and Alan Nakagawa, also a project manager, looked inside the Maui Digital Bus yesterday.
New bus wants kids
hooked on electronics
The roving lab is set to tour
schools on Maui in September
The Office of Naval Research on Maui is taking science and technology on the road.
The Maui Digital Bus, a mobile laboratory designed to cultivate student interest in science through technology, made its debut yesterday on Oahu during TechEnterprise 2004, a conference focusing on federal technology opportunities for Hawaii businesses.
The bus goes on public display from 9 a.m. to noon today at Damien Memorial High School.
The roving lab, equipped with the latest technology gadgets, is scheduled to begin its quest of promoting student interest in math and science in September on Maui.
The project, funded by the federal Office of Naval Research, is designed to get fourth- through seventh-graders interested in becoming scientists and engineers, according to Ted Sheppard of the office's Mid-Pacific branch office on Maui.
"We want to take technology and develop a hook, particularly for kids in middle schools, so when they get to high school, they'll take math and science, so that when they get to college, they'll take math and science," Sheppard said. "What we're trying to do is use interesting technology to get kids interested."
The bus was donated by a private nonprofit community action agency, Maui Economic Opportunity. The Office of Naval Research hired the local information technology firm, Akimeka, LLC, to equip and operate the shuttle-like bus, which has been decked out with $100,000 worth of digital cameras and microscopes, water-testing equipment, Global Positioning System devices and laptop computers.
The company has hired an experienced educator and curriculum developer to create projects for various grade levels based on Hawaii Content and Performance Standards for science and education technology.
Teachers can request that the bus come to their schools to give their students hands-on exposure to science and technology that might not be available in the classroom.
The Maui Digital Bus is modeled after a similar program, Just Think Mobile, on the Big Island that was started by the National Science Foundation in 2000. That program has been successful, and Sheppard is hoping the Maui project will follow suit.
"We've signed up a number of teachers on Maui that are willing to take this program and partner with us throughout the school year to get the kids interested in projects," he said. "It's not just a field trip."
Star-Bulletin reporter Susan Essoyan contributed to this report.