Art Kimura

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - February 16, 2011
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It used to be that science and math were considered the boring, uncool school subjects. But over the past decade, the popularity of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in Hawaii has grown exponentially, and it’s largely thanks to Art Kimura.

A retired lieutenant colonel with the Hawaii Air National Guard and a former school vice principal, Kimura has been a driving force in the science fields for years. After the Challenger accident in 1986, Kimura, who had been a state finalist for NASA’s Teacher-in-Space project the year before, helped establish the Challenger Center in Barbers Point to keep the dream of space travel alive. Five years later, he and wife Rene took their mission a step further by founding Future Flight Hawaii, a space-themed educational program designed to catalyze children’s interests in science, technology and the future through hands-on “missions” to far-off planets and galaxies.

Other great impacts Kimura has made on our state include the Space Explorers FESTival and the annual Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Science Day and Astronaut Lacy Veach Day of Discovery workshops. But his most recent accomplishment is bringing the academic sport of robotics to the Islands.

“Back in 1999, when schools were looking for a great STEM-related project to pursue, Art had found a program called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology). Through his relationship and connections with NASA and its many educational programs, he was able to get our team started with the program,” says Glenn Lee, coach of the multiple award-winning Waialua Robotics Team 359, aka the Hawaiian Kids.

Today there are six robotics education programs in Hawaii, including FIRST, Botball, First Lego League, VEX Robotics, Micro Robotics and the Hawaii Underwater Robot Challenge. In fact, this Sunday is the VEX Robotics Invitational Tournament, where 18 middle- and high-school teams from across the island will compete from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pearlridge Center for a spot in the World VEX Championships, to be held April 14-16 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World.

“The next generation of explorers are in our classrooms today,” says Kimura. “What will history record as to how accountable we were to them?”


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