"We have a tremendous opportunity to help kids take their education to the next level using the incredible scientific tools of the Maunakea Observatories," said Mary Beth Laychak, outreach program manager at Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). "We hope we can help inspire even more local students to pursue careers in STEM fields and become the next wave of scientists, engineers and technicians for these telescopes."
Just like professional astronomers, the students are working alongside astronomy mentors to design proposals for telescope time with CFHT. On March 2 at 10:00 a.m., the first round of telescope time allocation will be awarded at Kapolei High School by Doug Simons, director of CFHT, and Hawaii State Department of Education superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
"Maunakea Scholars is an example of the game-changing partnerships that enrich our classrooms and inspire our kids to do great things," said Matayoshi. "These students will have unparalleled research opportunities using some of the world's greatest scientific instruments, and there's no telling what amazing discoveries they will achieve."
Initiated by CFHT and Gemini International Observatory, the Maunakea Scholars program is a partnership between the Maunakea Observatories (MKO) and the Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE). The inaugural year includes classes of juniors and seniors at Waiakea High School on Hawaii Island and Kapolei High School on Oahu.
Once telescope time has been awarded, the students will have the opportunity to visit the telescopes at the science reserve atop Maunakea for an in-depth look at the science and technology taking place. The students will also visit CFHT's Waimea headquarters for a night of remote observing in the telescope control room, watching data stream live from the summit to computer systems in Waimea.
The Maunakea Observatories hope to expand the program in future years by reaching more students in classrooms across the state and eventually providing mentorship opportunities for the full range of clean, high-tech careers facilitated by the observatories.