Brainstorming renewable energy

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Sophia Stein and Leilani Kass look over Stein’s design for the “Green Kauai” team at the Student Energy Summit.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Leilani Kass, left, and Sophia Stein are the Green Kauai team at the Student Energy Summit.

LIHUE — Leilani Kass has only missed one of the Blue Planet Foundation’s Hawaii Student Energy Summits on Oahu, and that was the first one in 2014.

The 13-year-old homeschool student can’t wait to continue her attendance record this weekend at the 5th annual Student Energy Summit, and she’s bringing 11 other students with her from Kauai.

Those kids will attend the two-day summit with about 240 other students from around the state and Japan.

It’s a fast-paced event. Kids fly into Honolulu and then go straight to the summit, where they work together in breakout sessions that focus on green and eco-friendly solutions for the world.

“We all have a project that we do at the end, brainstorming one idea for something more eco-friendly,” Kass said. “Every year I walk away with something new, learning something new.”

Fellow homeschooler Sophia Stein is set to go with Kass and the group to Honolulu on an early flight this morning. It’s her second time going to the summit and she said she’s looking forward to working with new friends on big ideas.

“It’s not only about making new friends. It’s about learning together,” Stein said.

Over the years, as Kauai has garnered more students for the Student Energy Summit, they’ve formed a team under the name “Green Kauai,” and they’ve developed a logo, which Stein designed.

The logo is part-windmill, part-tree, and highlights vegetation while putting emphasis on developments in renewable energy.

After the teams have come up with their eco-friendly, innovative solution to one of Earth’s environmental challenges, a winner is chosen from among the presentations.

Kass said she remembers one year a winning team from Kauai constructed a renewable source of heat from duckweed pellets. Duckweed is an aquatic plant that floats on the surface of slow-moving water.

“They burn really good and it grows really fast,” Kass said.

Once they’re done at the two-day energy summit, the students will return to Kauai with an assignment — to present their solutions to their communities and classrooms.

“I’m all about spreading awareness. I think it’s the most important,” Kass said. “Look at sea-level rise. Some people don’t know much about it, and it directly affects us.”

Stein pointed to pollution, “both in the air and in our oceans,” as another environmental problem that needs attention.

Every year the energy summit has a different theme. This year’s is “Revolution 2020: Past, present, renewable,” focusing on the need to transition to renewable-energy sources.

Students will be traveling under the supervision of two of Kauai’s teachers, Rebecca Hart and Ana O’Rourke.

O’Rourke said this is her second year chaperoning students to the summit.

“What I enjoyed so much the first time was watching all these young minds gather and come up with ideas and solutions to help Hawaii become self-sufficient with our energy sources,” O’Rourke said. “Also, it helped me and my family be mindful with our water and energy use, and taught us ways to cut back.”


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or

  1. Lumahai November 10, 2019 3:45 pm Reply

    Renewables are not green to make transport and install. Their short life is already causing disposal problems for countries with landfills. They are toxic.

  2. Everythingisawesome November 11, 2019 6:42 am Reply

    I applaud you ‘kids’ for choosing to learn something technical and practical. Here’s something to keep in mind as you brainstorm ideas at the summit. Lots of scientists and engineers go to expensive schools for 4 years or more to learn this and still don’t get it…I’m giving it to you for free. Let it sink in…don’t just gloss over this gem: Energy in neither created or destroyed, it can only change from one form to another. Wind power? Stored solar energy. Water power? Stored solar energy. Fossil fuels? Stored solar energy. Ethanol? Stored solar energy. Duckweed? Ditto. All these forms of energy came from somewhere (the sun) and end up somewhere else after we use them (usually heat or light or mechanical, electrical or potential energy). Everytime we change energy from one form or another we lose some of the energy (usually in the form of heat). The “cleanest” thing anyone can do is use less. You know what isn’t renewable but is fairly clean and will last thousands of years into the future? The furnace a few miles under our feet (geothermal, probably left over from the big-bang). And you just happen to live next to an island where it is easily accessible!! Field trip!!

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