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Customer Highlight: STEMworks

Customer Highlight: STEMworks

Katie Taladay: STEMworks continues to thrive – even during a pandemic

Katie Taladay is the Director of Education and Workforce Development for he Maui Economic Development Boards’ STEMworks program.

STEMworks is a Hawaii-based non-profit workforce development organization providing training, curricula, and resources, for teachers, students, STEM professionals, volunteers, and everyone passionate about getting children eager to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Each year, STEMworks holds the Hawaii STEM conference where teachers, middle school and high school students from all of the Hawaiian isalnds convene in Honolulu to celebrate all things STEM. The Hawaii STEM conference is an opportunity for students and teachers to gain professional development, interact with cutting-edge technologies, meet with industry professionals, and showcase their STEM talent through numerous competition. In normal times, the event draws in 1,500+ attendees. While this year, the conference was limited to 350 students, the event was a fantastic success!

One of the ten professional development sessions offered for students this year was a Neuroscience session in partnership with the Hawaii Brain and Behavior Lab at the University of Hawaii. In this session, students had the opportunity to use the NeuroMaker BCI (brain computing interface) device and curriculum.

“Students were coming up to use and saying, ‘I didn’t know brain waves were a thing!'” said Katie.

Initially, Ms. Taladay was drawn to the NeuroMaker HAND because it is a socially-conscious engineering tool that helps draw girls to computer science and robotics. “it is different from other robotic companies; they are not building something just to build something. It is for service to help others with disabilities.”

As in most of the U.S., 80% of engineering students in Hawaii identify as male. Students who identify as female tend to go into more nurturing STEM roles. Taladay is encouraged that NeuroMaker has a product that allows these female students “to see that they can do engineering to help others.”

Because of this success, STEMworks wants to explore more with the BCI. “The Magic lies with the BCIs. I am hopeful to see that the students agree.”

Additionally, Taladay found that the NeuroMaker Creative Challenge spurred creative ideas beyond a prosthetic hand. “This challenge served as a launching pad for students to think more creatively about engienering.” STEMworks had 200 students participate in the NeuroMaker Challenge – and while not all students submitted, they all had a chance to try. The NeuroMaker HAND kits were purchased through funding provided by an EDA STEM Talent Award.

When asked about NeuroMaker’s customer service, Taladay replied that “NeuroMaker has been wonderful to work with” and STEMworks plans on continuing working with NeuroMaker in the future. “We want students to be part of this tech, and we want them to continue doing the challenge.”

STEMworks supports 15 schools across the Hawaiian Islands and has been utilizing NeuroMaker resources for one year in 10 of their schools during the 2021-2022 school year with hopes of expanding to 10 more schools this fall.

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