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HI STAR Students Succeed at Maui, State Science Fairs

HI STAR participants

HI STAR participants and parents at the state science fair. Back row from left to right: Tracy Jones and her son Luke Jones, Lily Jenkins, Celeste Jongeneelen and her mom, Esther Pollock-Jongeneelen, Christopher Lindsay, Kayla Ishida, Christopher Kim, and M. Thomas Sturm. Front Row: Sarah Jenkins and Hedi Jenkins (mother of Sarah and Lily) with HI STAR director Mary Kadooka. Photo courtesy J. D. Armstrong.

For the third consecutive year students who have participated in IfA’s HI STAR program took top honors at the Maui County Science and Engineering Fair.  HI STAR, or Hawai‘i Student/Teacher Astronomy Research, is an IfA program that encourages middle and high school students to excel in the sciences by teaching them how to do astronomical research.

Sarah Jenkins and Lily Jenkins (Moloka‘i High School) won the first place award for a project that studied mangroves. Luke Jones (Kihei Charter School) won a merit award, an award for mathematics, and an award for “most technical and complete” for his project on modified Newtonian dynamics that used data from the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) network and the Pan-STARRS telescope on Maui. Both of these projects advanced to the state level.

Celeste Jongeneelen (home schooled) also won a merit award and advanced to the state level. Her project on identifying Ae/Be stars in young open clusters is the first high school project that used the FLOYDS spectrograph on the LCOGT 2.0-meter telescope network.

Christopher Kim and M. Thomas Sturm, who won third place for Physics and Astronomy at last year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), took this year’s project, which studied the differences in helioseismic results using different spectral lines, to the state level competition.

So how did these students do at the state level?

Luke Jones won second place overall, first place for physics and astronomy, and first place among Hawai‘i public schools. He will be attending ISEF in May. Celeste Jongeneelen won third place for physics and astronomy, the Hawaiian astronomical award, and an award from NASA. Christopher Kim and Thomas Sturm won an award from the American Public Works Association.

In addition, HI STAR participants from O‘ahu, Lelani Gamboa and Christopher Lindsay, also won awards at the state fair, and Kayla Ishida came from Kaua‘i.

There were nine astronomy projects at the state fair. J. D. Armstrong, IfA’s Maui Technology Education and Outreach Specialist, mentored three of them (with IfA alumnus Marco Micheli, in the case of Luke Jones), and Katie Whitman (IfA alumna and current physics graduate assistant), Larry Denneau (senior software engineer for IfA’s ATLAS project), and Geoff Mathews (IfA alumnus and current astronomy instructor) each mentored one.

Unfortunately, there will be no HI STAR program in 2015 because funding has lapsed. IfA staff who worked on this very successful program hope to obtain funding so that they can restart it in 2016.