University Hawaii Undergraduates Participate in International STEM Exchange in Japan


Six undergraduate students in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses from the University of Hawaii’s Kapiolani Community College will be taking their studies to Kansai University in Japan for a few days this month.

There, the students will work closely with 12 Kansai University students at the Takatsuki Campus for 10 days in August to study environmental issues in the region and in the country.

This international exchange is just one part of the Kai Yama Program (with Hawaii being the “Kai” and Japan being “Yama”), which is a year-long program for the KCC and Kansai University students, meant to foster international collaboration, environmental preservation, and community engagement for a two-week academic and cultural immersion.

The Kai Yama program is also supported by the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, which is an established government agency focused on developing positive relationships between the two countries.

The JUFC supports research, education, outreach programs, and exchanges by providing grants taken from the Japan-United States Friendship Trust Fund, which came from payments by the Japanese government for US aid.

To make sure that both KCC and KU students get the maximum experience of the short but meaningful exchange, faculty members from both schools will continuously collaborate together for the program throughout the entire year.

Those involved are:

  • KCC Pathway Coordinator Kelli Goya
  • Biology and Ecology Associate Professor Wendy Kuntz
  • Kenichi Kubota
  • Bert Kimura
  • Mary Kimura

Goya said that the Kai Yama projects allow the students to experience community involvement in the field of their choice. It also makes them apply their classroom lessons into real-life issues that affect the local communities.

Just this spring break, students from KCC and KU had worked together to investigate environmental conflicts and problems in the surrounding Hawaii area.

The students also helped and collaborated with the Mālama Maunalua, a non-profit organization in the local community that aims to restore the Maunalua Bay.

The students did community service, getting rid of around 800 pounds of algae that harmed the bay’s marine ecosystem.

The students from both universities became fast friends and were able to help in environmental concerns, at the same time provided different cultural perspective in solving problems.

KCC student, Esther ‘Alohi Madrona, said that her experience showed her how, although different countries, both the USA and Japan had similar environmental issues, and that sharing their strategies and plans allowed them to solve the problem in a more efficient and quick manner.

This month, in August, the six STEM college students will go to Japan and work with their peers in Kuta, a small mountain village in the Sakyo District.

There, the KCC participants will study the ecology and ecosystem of Lake Biwa, will investigate non-native species and human-wildlife relationships, and will come up with solutions to address local community problems, with the KU students acting as guides, translators, and co-researchers.

The KCC students participating are either in their first or second year in a STEM academic program related to environmental science. Five of the students are Hawaii natives, a group often underrepresented in the STEM academic and employment fields.

Rob Clark admin staff managing editor

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