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Aligning Indigenous Culture With Science

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Influence of Race and Culture

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.193.1 - 12.193.13



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Paper Authors


Leslie Wilkins Maui Economic Development Board

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Ms. Wilkins is Vice President of the Maui Economic Development Board and is the Founder and Director of its Women Technology Project. An experienced advocate for workplace equity, served as National President of the Business & Professional Women’s organization in 2001. Appointed by the Hawaii governor to two terms on the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, she was Commission Chair from 1996 - 2003.

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Sheryl Hom isisHawaii and Women in Technology

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Ms. Hom is Vice-President and Director of Content Development for isisHawaii. She has served as editor and media specialist for the MEDB Women in Technology Project since 2004, lending her writing skills to WIT¹s broad range of programs statewide. As President and Owner of HomCreative, a creative marketing company, she knows firsthand the challenges and rewards of a women-owned business. She holds a B.A./Journalism from the University of Hawaii and an M.A./Journalism from the University of Oregon.

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Jenilynne Gaskin Maui Economic Development Board

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Ms. Gaskin joined the MEDB Women in Technology Project in November 2003 as a program manager for student outreach. Since 2004, she serves as the manager and logistical coordinator for the Excite Camp program. She holds a baccalaureate degree in Business and Information Systems from the University of Phoenix. She has served over 8 years with the Hawaii Air National Guard as the sole female in the Satellite and Wideband Communications Section of the 292nd Combat Communications Squadron in Maui, Hawaii.

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Kawailehua Kuluhiwa Maui Economic Development Board, Inc.

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Ms. Kuluhiwa is a Native Hawaiian Cultural Advisor, a past beneficiary of the Women in Technology (WIT) Project, and repeat volunteer mentor for the Excite Camp program since 2001. She has been instrumental in organizing and leading the infusion of Native Hawaiian cultural components into the 2006 Excite Camp program. She holds a baccalaureate degree in astronomy from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

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Christine Andrews Maui Eco Dev Board

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Aligning Indigenous Culture with Science


“Excite Camp” now in its sixth year is premised upon the engaging curriculum marriage of culture and science. The program creates interest in Native Hawaiian girls for math and science just prior to entering high school, by exposing them to math and science applications in their community―in tandem with the sophisticated science of their native culture and history. Program development for Excite Camp is provided by the Women in Technology Project (WIT) of the Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. (Maui, Hawaii) and is funded in part by the Department of Labor as a workforce development project. Research indicates that the transition from middle school to high school is a critical time when girls often lose interest in math and science. They view these career fields as boring, not relevant to their lives, and Caucasian male- dominated―thus they do not pursue them. WIT has worked with Native Hawaiian cultural advisors and Kupuna (native teachers) in conjunction to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (which has oversight of the Maui astronomical assets) to address the dual barriers of gender and ethnicity facing Native Hawaiian girls by exposing them at this pivotal point in their lives to technology in the context of their community and their native culture.

The WIT project enlists female scientists of Native Hawaiian ancestry who are involved in math and science-based careers to participate in the camp and to provide mentoring for the student participants. WIT also employs a team-based, instead of the individual or competition-based, paradigm which has been proven to be more effective for girls’ education. The paper will also discuss methodology for building self-efficacy through highlighting astronomical navigational science of ancient Hawaiians juxtaposed with current day science, engineering and astronomy careers atop sacred Mount Haleakala. This paper will present survey results, anecdotal evidence, multi-year tracking and improvements/revisions to the program as it progressed through its fifth year. Its importance to this conference is demonstrating how WIT analyzed available research and developed community-based, culturally appropriate and cost-effective programming that, as it is implemented, will provide on-going validation for the need to effect policy changes to provide funding for programs like Excite Camp that can have positive career choice implications for indigenous populations of girls. It will further discuss the broader community impacts of building awareness and respect of Native Hawaiian culture within Hawaii’s scientific and technology community. Training and education protocols used in Excite Camp have become a catalyst to build cultural training protocols within the U.S. Air Force and its civilian Department of Defense contractors, helping to mitigate sometimes contentious relationships.


Launched in 1999, the Maui-based Women in Technology Project (WIT) is funded in part by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Agriculture, Education and the County of Maui as a workforce development project. Its mission is to encourage women, girls, and under represented groups to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the state of Hawaii. WIT has been successful at creating systemic change by working directly with

Wilkins, L., & Hom, S., & Gaskin, J., & Kuluhiwa, K., & Andrews, C. (2007, June), Aligning Indigenous Culture With Science Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2800

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