Education leaders formalize Maunakea Scholars program


The collaborative agreement between the Hawaii DOE, the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, will develop more opportunities for local high school students to use Maunakea Observatories for their innovative research projects.

Hawaii's leading academic institutions have formalized an educational partnership in support of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning initiatives created through the Maunakea Scholars program. This morning, Director Doug Simons from Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, President David Lassner of the University of Hawaii (UH), and Superintendent Kathy Matayoshi of the the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) gathered at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA) to sign a collaborative agreement that will create unprecedented opportunities for local students.

"The observatories on Maunakea are the best in the world," said David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii. "This collaboration will provide some of our own high school students from across the islands with unprecedented opportunities to conduct real research as we work to grow the next generation of world-class astronomers here at home."

The finalized memorandum will result in the formation of an official working group, operating to ensure the program's continued success and the allocation of its resources. This committee is to play a critical role in developing authentic, problem-based learning experiences that aid high school students in their college and career-readiness. 

"Students are most successful when they are offered hands-on, innovative opportunities that allow them to be fully immersed in what they are studying," said Kathryn Matayoshi, superintendent at HIDOE. "Maunakea Scholars puts the student in the shoes of the astronomer not just for a day, but a lifetime. It's truly been an honor to be a part of this endeavor in elevating Hawaii's schools as leaders in STEM." 

Designed to bring Hawaii's high schoolers into one of the world's most advanced observatory communities, Maunakea Scholars helps aspiring astronomers envision their potential of pursuing a career in STEM-related fields. It the first program of its kind internationally to allocate observing time at major observatories for the direct educational advancement of students. 

To qualify, students in participating schools must conduct astronomical research and assemble a comprehensive proposal that can be conducted at an observatory. Selected proposals are then matched with graduate students from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and telescope staff to individually guide them through their research.

"It has been fascinating and inspirational to see these students formulate ingenious observing proposals," said Doug Simons, Executive Director at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. "These students never thought they'd have access to the most powerful telescopes in the world to conduct their own research and it's remarkable to see the magic that occurs when they are provided with the tools and confidence to make it happen."

The current cohort of Maunakea Scholars includes five local schools, including Kapolei High School, Kalani High School and Nanakuli High School on Oahu, and Waiakea High School and Honokaa High School on Hawaii Island. Six facilities have committed to the initiative by allocating telescope time for student exploration, including Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), Gemini Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, (operated by East Asian Observatory) Las Cumbres Observatory, NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and Subaru Telescope. Programming and education partners also include Imiloa Astronomy Center, who are helping develop and provide the cultural educational dimension of the Maunakea Scholars program.

Initiated by Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and Gemini Observatory, and in partnership with the Maunakea Observatories and the Hawaii State Department of Education, Maunakea Scholars successfully launched in 2015 to bring Hawaii's aspiring young astronomers into the observatory community. This is the first program of its kind internationally, leveraging the most powerful collection of telescopes in the world for the direct educational advancement of Hawaii's high school students.

Click here to download the Maunakea Scholars Memorandum of Understanding signed today. 

About the Maunakea Observatories 
The Maunakea Observatories are a collaboration of independent institutions with telescopes located on Maunakea on the island of Hawaii. Together, the Observatories make Maunakea the most scientifically productive site for astronomy world-wide. The Maunakea Observatories include: Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Gemini International Observatory, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (EAO), NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Subaru Telescope, Submillimeter Array, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, University of Hawaii Hilo Educational Telescope, University of Hawaii 2.2 Meter Telescope, Very Long Baseline Array, W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck I and Keck II).

About the Hawaii State Department of Education
The Hawaii DOE is the ninth-largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country.  It is comprised of 256 schools and 34 charter schools, and serves more than 180,000 students.  King Kamehameha III established Hawaii's public school system in 1840. To learn more, visit

About the University of Hawaii 
Established in 1907 and fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the University of Hawaii System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the state. As the sole public system of higher education in Hawaii, UH offers an array of undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees and community programs.  UH enrolls about 50,000 students from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland and around the world.  For more information visit

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Contact Information

Christine Matsuda Smith

Phone: 808-753-7134



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