THINK Fund: $1 Million 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 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 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 and grant making 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 administer their respective THINK Funds independently and have autonomy in administering grant funds, determining scholarship recipients, and the selection and governance of Advisory Committees.

To date, TMT has funded $5,536,964.15 to the THINK Fund initiative (THINK Fund at HCF $4,254,232.94 and THINK Fund at Pauahi Foundation $1,282,731.21) for Hawai‘i Island students, their families and teachers.

In total, TMT’s THINK Fund initiative and Workforce Pipeline Program have funded over $7.6 million to Hawai‘i Island students, teachers and programs since 2014.

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 20,000 students and 97 schools and nonprofit organizations through support of STEM education on Hawaii Island. Thirty Meter Telescope’s (TMT) early support of STEM education for Hawaii Island youth created momentum that HCF used to attract additional donors and offer grants through the Hawaii STEM Learning Partnership from 2014 – 2017. In 2018, HCF and its partners created the Career Connected Learning program to build on this momentum. With significant funding through THINK Fund at HCF, the Career Connected Learning Program is strengthening the alignment between the diverse and growing number of STEM learning programs and the specific needs of Hawaii’s STEM workforce. More than $3.7M in grants have been awarded to innovative STEM programs and activities, including $1.2M by TMT through THINK Fund at HCF. THINK Fund at HCF has also committed $375,000 to provide immediate funding for high-quality, read-to-go STEM projects in Hawaii Island classrooms through College scholarships have been awarded to 85 Hawai‘i Island students totaling over $500,000.

• College scholarships totaling over $325,000 have been awarded to 83 Hawai‘i Island students with financial need.
• Scholarships support students pursuing careers in STEM and future STEM educators who intend to teach in Hawai‘i Island schools.

STEM Learning Grants
• THINK Fund at HCF provided more than $985,000 in grants that leveraged an additional
$1,500,000 from other funders to support innovative STEM programs and activities.
• Programs receiving support must demonstrate success recruiting and addressing the needs of groups underrepresented in STEM fields, which includes students in rural communities, Native Hawaiians, and those disengaged in school.

Classroom Grants through
• $250,000 has been committed to providing immediate funding for high-quality, ready-to-go STEM projects in Hawai‘i Island classrooms.
• High need schools received 78% of the funding.
• 39 out of 55 public and public charter schools on Hawai‘i Island have received grants, schools with high need students received 78% of the funding.

Career Connected Learning Program (formerly called STEM Learning Grants)
• Launched in January 2018; in its first year, 33 grants were awarded
• Provides grants for in-school and after-school activities for students, teacher professional development or work-based learning programs. (See attached for 2018 list.)

Program for Children of Incarcerated Parents
• Hawaii Community Foundation will solicit proposals to fund programs serving this target group for at least $5,000 per year, beginning this year.

Advisory Committee members of THINK Fund at HCF include Laurie Ainslie, Roberta Chu, Kaeo Duarte, Farrah Marie Gomes, 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

THINK Fund at the Pauahi Foundation

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

• To date TMT has provided $1,282,731.21 to the THINK Fund at Pauahi Foundation.
• TMT’s THINK Fund at Pauahi has funded thirty-four scholarships to date, with all students funded for their entire academic careers.
• Twenty-eight students had full scholarships to Science Camps; total of $67,060.
• All students are Native Hawaiian.

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 $1,282,731.21 has been invested to date in Hawai’i island students, teachers, schools, and opportunities.


• Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island
o Akeakamai Aloha Aina
o Summer STEM for Life
• Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary School – Journey Through Time: 100 Years Past and Present
• Community-Based Education Support Services 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
• Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture – School to Farm STEM Field Trips
• Hawaii Outdoors Institute – Summer to Sea Environmental Science Course – Hawaii Kuleana Award
• Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy – Hawaii Island STEM Summer Learning Partnership
• Hawaii Science and Technology Museum – SpartanWORKS: Establishing a Hawaii STEM Network for the Hilo Community
• Hilo Intermediate School – Frameworks for STEM Success!
• Hilo Medical Center Foundation – Create and Navigate Opportunities in Education (CANOE) STEM Program
• Holualoa Elementary School – Expand and Integrate STEM
• Honaunau Elementary School – Garden for STEM Learning
• Honoka‘a Complex, Kamuela, Hawaii
o Innovation Lab
o STEM Partnership
o STEM Phantom Pilots
o TechnoTrailer
• Kahua Pa’a Mua, Inc. – Understanding Microbial Importance in Soils (UMIS)
• Kalanihale – STEM ALOHA in South Kona Hawaii: Advancing Learning in STEM
• Kanu o ka ‘Aina Learning Ohana
o Malama Kipuka-Taking Care of a Culturally Sacred Place Through Science Exploration
o Malamapokii Outdoor STEM Learning Laboratory
• Ke Kula ‘o Nawahiokalani opu‘u – Ko Kula Kai
• Kea‘au Elementary School – Robotics Inspire Program
• Kealakehe High School
o Creating STEM Career Pathway in West Hawai‘i
o Expanding STEM Education within the West Hawaii Community Through Kealakehe STEM Programs
• Keaukaha One Youth Development – RISE 21st Century After School Program
• Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School
o ‘Imi Na‘auWOW: LCPCS’s bridge between local and global
o Project-Based Learning and 21st Century Skills
• Marine Mammal Center – Na Kokua o Ke Kai: Advancing Middle-School Marine Science and Ocean Conservation
• North Kohala Community Resource Center – Kohala Robotics
• Pa‘a Pono Miloli‘i – ‘Imiloa O Miloli‘i (Miloli‘i “Seekers of Knowledge”)
• Success Factory – Building student skill and confidence to thrive in STEM careers
• Teach for America – Hawai‘i Island STEM Teacher Programming, Development and Support
• The Kohala Center
o Environmental Education Program
o KWPeeps: Kohala Watershed Partnership environmental education programs
o STEM in the Natural World: Cultural and Scientific Pathways to the Careers of Tomorrow
• University of Hawaii – Office of Research Services
o Big island Invasive Species Committee: Building teacher capacity in hands-on, inquiry-based science using existing Hawaii-based curricula
o Professional Development for Creating Competent, Place-Based, Inquiry-Driven Instruction
• University of Hawaii Foundation
o ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii: Mobile Science Outreach on Hawaii Island
o Hawaii CC Summer STEM Academy Scholarships
o MANU ‘Imiloa: the Geometry of Wayfinding
o Mini-MERIT and MADE Programs – a partnership between CCECS and KCI
o PRIME (Professional Resources Inspiring Motivated Educators)
o The Inspiration Imagination Innovation Projects
o THINK Big Island VEX Robotics League
• Waiakea High School – WHS Robotics
• Waiakea Intermediate School – WCS Coding and Programming Initiative
• Waimea Elementary School – 1 to 1 Student Computer Program
• West Hawai‘i Explorations Academy Public Charter School – WHEA Robotics
• Zoological Society of San Diego – Alala Reintroduction Community Inquiry Program

• Connections New Century Public Charter School
• Ernest Bowen DeSilva Elementary School
• Hilo High School
• Hilo Intermediate School
• Hilo Union Elementary School
• Honoka’a High & Intermediate School
• Ho’okena Elementary School
• Innovations Public Charter School
• Ka ‘Umeke Ka’eo Public Charter School
• Kahakai Elementary School
• Kanu O Ka ‘Aina New Century Public Charter School
• Ka’u High & Pahala Elementary School
• Ke Kula O ‘Ehunuikaimalino School
• Kea’au High School
• Kea’au Middle School
• Kealakehe Elementary School
• Kealakehe High School
• Kealakehe Intermediate School
• Keonepoko Elementary School
• Kohala Elementary School
• Kohala High School
• Kona Pacific Public Charter School
• Konawaena Elementary School
• Konawaena High School
• Konawaena Middle School
• Kula O Ka La Public Charter School
• Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School
• Na’alehu Elementary School
• Pa’auilo Elementary & Intermediate School
• Pahoa Elementary School
• Prince Jonah Kalaniana’ole Elementary & Intermediate School
• Volcano School of Arts & Science Public Charter School
• Waiakea Elementary School
• Waiakea High School
• Waiakea Intermediate School
• Waikoloa Elementary & Middle School
• Waimea Elementary School
• Waters of Life Public Charter School
• West Hawaii Explorations Academy

• Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests – Teaching Change: Increasing youth participation in conservation related STEM fields in Hawaii
• Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation – Maunakea Scholars Expansion with Manoa Academy
• Friends of the Future – Hokupa’a Purpose-Driven Career Pathways
• Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i – Hawaii Island and Kauai STEM Fests and the Girl Scouts Leadership Experience
• Hawaii Academy of Arts & Science Public Charter School – STEM Learning
• Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture – Farm Mentorship & Apprenticeship
• Hawaii Pacific University – Citizen Science Program Using eDNA
• Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy – HPA’s Career Connected STEM
• Hilo Medical Center Foundation – Pre-Health Career Corps Program
• Holualoa Elementary School – Holualoa C2C Food Sustainability Project
• Honoka’a Complex, Kamuela – STEM Partnership: STEM Career Connected Learning Program
• Kahua Pa’a Mua, Inc. – KPM Ag STEM Connection
• Ke Kula ‘o Nawahiokalani opu‘u – Ko Kula Kai
• Kealakehe High School – Expanding Excellent STEM Access in West Hawaii
• Keaukaha One Youth Development – RISE 21st Century After School Program
• Kea’au Elementary School – Kea’au Robotics Inspire
• Keonepoko Elementary School – KeOBots
• Mala’ai – The Culinary Garden of Waimea Middle School – STEM Learning in the Garden
• Marine Mammal Center – Na Kokua o Ke Kai: Advancing Middle-School Marine Science and Ocean Conservation
• Parker School – Expansion of Parker School’s Technology Education Plan
• Prince Dance Company – Rhythm of the Universe
• Regents of the University of California, Santa Cruz – Hawaii Island Akamai Internships
• Success Factory – The Success Factory’s NexTech STEM Programs
• The Kohala Center – Ke Kumu ‘Aina: Watershed Field Investigations
• University of Hawaii, Hilo – Real-world Studies and Student Empowerment Can Improve Access to STEM Career Pathways
• University of Hawaii Foundation
o Pushing Health Professional Students Past the Chemistry Barrier
o FEST (Families Exploring Science Together)
o KCI Professional Development and Training
• Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative – Future Foresters
• Waimea Elementary School – Install widescreen smartboards in classroom to facilitate schoolwide exploration of career options
• Waimea Middle Public Conversion Charter School – #STEAMTeam
• Zoological Society of San Diego – Alala Reintroduction Community Inquiry Program


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