THINK Fund: $1 MilIion Committed Annually for STEM Education

In November 2014, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) launched THINK (The Hawaii Island New Knowledge) Fund to better prepare Hawaii Island students to master STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and to become the workforce for higher paying science and technology jobs in Hawaii’s 21st century economy. TMT’s founding gift of $1 million marks the beginning of the construction phase of astronomy’s next-generation telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.

TMT’s THINK Fund initiative benefits Hawaii Island students pursuing STEM endeavors with an annual contribution of $1 million over its existing 19-year Maunakea sublease with the University of Hawaii- Hilo. Two Hawai‘i foundations were selected by TMT, Hawaii Community Foundation and Pauahi Foundation, to administer THINK Fund distribution in scholarship and grant making platforms. The two independent foundations are defining their award criteria and decision-making process.

The Thirty Meter Telescope initiated dialogue on the formation of THINK Fund in 2008 by asking a group of community volunteers to outline the mission, vision, purpose and implementation strategy of an education fund benefitting Hawaii Island students. The Organizing Committee that developed TMT’s THINK Fund structure was comprised of Hawaii Island residents.

The Organizing Committee determined that scholarships, grant making and the establishment of an endowment would ensure the sustainability of improving educational opportunities for Hawaii Island students in STEM disciplines. It further recognized that an emphasis be given to improving opportunities for STEM education for Native Hawaiian students, not as an exclusive preference, but focusing on addressing the needs of Hawaii’s host culture.

TMT’s annual $1 million contribution allocates $750,000 to THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and $250,000 to THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation. The foundations will administer their respective THINK Funds independently and will have autonomy in administering grant funds, determining scholarship recipients, and the selection and governance of Advisory Committees.

THINK Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation

Grants and scholarships are available by online application to THINK Fund at Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF) and support a variety of Hawaii Island STEM student activities in and after-school, internship programs, and teacher-generated classroom projects. Scholarships support future STEM teachers on Hawai‘i Island as well as students pursuing STEM degrees and training.

Since 2015, THINK Fund at HCF has benefitted 26,000 students and 1,000 teachers through support of STEM education on Hawai‘i Island. TMT’s cornerstone funding provided the momentum needed to attract additional donors and launch the STEM Learning Partnership in 2015. More than $2.2M in grants have been awarded to innovative STEM programs and activities, including $747,000 by TMT through THINK Fund at HCF. THINK Fund at HCF has also committed $250,000 to provide immediate funding for high-quality, read-to-go STEM projects in Hawai‘i Island classrooms through College scholarships have been awarded to 56 Hawai‘i Island students totaling over $330,000.

Advisory Committee members of THINK Fund at HCF include Laurie Ainslie, Roberta Chu, Kaeo Duarte, Hiapo Perreira, Doug Simons, and Barry Taniguchi. The Advisory Committee, facilitated by Hawaii Community Foundation staff, assists with strategy development, reviews proposals, and makes grant recommendations.

THINK Fund at HCF is open to all Hawaii Island students including Native Hawaiians, teachers with STEM classroom projects, and organizations providing STEM programs that directly benefit Hawai‘i Island. Learn more and apply at

The Hawaii Island offices of Hawaii Community Foundation are located in Hilo and Waimea.

THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation

Scholarship Programs will be the initial focus of THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation. Grant making is being considered for the future.

Advisory committee members of THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation are Roberta Chu, Kaeo Duarte, Leinaala Enos, David Kaapu, Bob Lindsey, Gail Makuakane-Lundin and Maile Wong. Learn more and apply at

THINK Fund Collaboration

THINK Fund was designed as an initiative to encourage and attract other funders who align with the mission and goal to improve STEM education and strengthen Hawaii Island’s workforce, and TMT is serving as the founding member of the THINK Fund initiative. The vision of this collaborative approach is to bring together the island community with funders in a partnership that strives to help Hawaii Island students long term.

Programs Supported By THINK Funding

Over $1,085,000 has been invested to date in Hawai’i island students, teachers, schools, and opportunities.

  • Akamai Workforce Initiative – Internship Program
  • Big Island Invasive Species Committee – Teacher Professional Development for Place-based, Inquiry-driven Instruction
  • Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island – Akeakamai Aloha Aina
  • Friends of Connections School – Integrating STEM Education through Project-Based Learning
  • Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge – Teaching Change
  • Friends of the Future – Earl’s Garage
  • Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i – STEM Program
  • Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy and Waimea Elementary – STEM Summer Learning Partnership
  • Hawai‘i Space Grant Consortium – Inspiration Imagination Innovation (I³) Project and PRIME (Professional Resources Inspiring Motivated Educators)
  • Hilo Intermediate, Kaumana Elementary School and EB Desilva Elementary School – STEM Framework Partnership
  • Holualoa Elementary School – Expand and Integrate STEM
  • Honaunau Elementary School – Garden for STEM Learning
  • Honoka‘a Complex – STEM Partnership
  • Honoka‘a Complex – TechnoTrailer and STEM Phantom Pilots
  • ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center – MANU ‘Imiloa: The Geometry of Wayfinding
  • Kanu o ka ‘Aina Learning Ohana – Malama Kipuka-Taking Care of a Culturally Sacred Place Through Science Exploration and Malamapokii Outdoor STEM Learning Laboratory
  • Ke Kula ‘o Nawahiokalani opu‘u – Ko Kula Kai
  • Kea‘au Elementary School – Robotics inspire Program
  • Kealakehe High School – Creating STEM Career Pathway in West Hawai‘i
  • Keaukaha One Youth Development – RISE 21st Century After School Program
  • Kohala Watershed Partnership – Environmental Education
  • Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School – ‘Imi Na‘auWOW and Project-based Learning
  • North Kohala Community Resource Center – Kohala Robotics
  • Pa‘a Pono Miloli‘i – ‘Imiloa O Miloli‘i (Miloli‘i “Seekers of Knowledge”)
  • PISCES Moon RIDER at Kealakehe High School
  • Teach for America – Hawai‘i Island STEM Teacher Programming, Development and Support
  • The Kohala Center – Environmental Education Program
  • UH-Hilo College of Continuing Education and Community Service and Krause Center for Innovation at Foothills Community College – Mini-MERIT and MADE Programs For Educators
  • Waimea Elementary School – Student Computer Program
  • Waiakea High School – WHS Robotics
  • West Hawai‘i Explorations Academy Public Charter School Robotics


Serena O’Neill, math teacher from Keaau High School talks with Scott at the TMT Mahalo Event, about how the THINK fund helps in her classroom and how STEM helps students prepare for the job market of the future.

Kealakehe High School’s robotics team and STEM Academy held its 7th annual Ho‘ike event last week to recognize student members for their achievements and also raise money for the school program. Along with STEM-related skills, junior Maya Gee talked about other important skills learned by students as part of the programs co-sponsored by TMT through the THINK fund.

We had a chance to stop by the Friends of Hawai’i Robotics 10th annual competition today and had a chat with Julia from Kealakehe Tiki Tech Team 3880 one of the teams we’re sponsoring via the #ThinkFund. Good luck team 3880! #ImuaTMT #FirstRobotics

Paul Coleman talks about the Hawaii Island New Knowledge (THINK) Fund