Red Raiders semifinalists in national STEM contest

  • Courtesy of Leah Aiwohi

    This screenshot shows the Kaua‘i High School #SamsungSolve Team as it was announced as a national semifinalist Thursday. At top from left are teacher Crystal Ozaki, student Gen Hew and teacher Leah Aiwohi. Bottom from left are teacher Leina‘ala Kealoha, Principal Marlene Leary and student Robert Abigania.

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i High School earned a Samsung Galaxy Note20 and $15,000 to be redeemed on Thursday after the school’s #SamsungSolve team was announced as a semifinalist school in the 11th annual, $2 million Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.

Working with teacher Leah Aiwohi, the team consisting of seniors Robert Abigania and Gen Hew are doing work to reverse engineer a bio-artificial leaf, test and analyze the carbon-dioxide-to-oxygen-conversion efficiency of the leaf, adjust the design of the leaf and design a leaf for common use.

“Their hard and smart work is rightly celebrated in this national contest to develop #STEM solutions that address local issues,” Aiwohi said.

“In this project, the team hopes to emulate the original bio-artificial leaf, study its capabilities and weaknesses, and alter them for conventional use.”

The semifinalist school award is provided to execute their project during this school year, whether they are engaging in a virtual, in-person or hybrid teaching environment, states the Samsung website.

“Students and teachers across the country, regardless of classroom format, are rising to the occasion to creatively use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to address some of the greatest issues impacting their generation — from social justice to pandemic-related solutions,” said Ann Woo, senior director of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung Electronics America.

“These students are facing unchartered challenges with stoic determination and using creative problem-solving skills to succeed.

“We are proud to unveil the schools in this year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, and look forward to seeing their proposed solutions and innovations come to life,” said Woo.

Aiwohi said the project was launched through distance learning.

“Nearly our entire first semester was done through distance learning,” the teacher-coach said.

“Robert and Gen have been awesome students even during these times of remote learning.

“They have been so diligent in not allowing the circumstances to become an obstacle in their learning experiences,” she said.

”For many students, including Robert and Gen, one of the biggest challenges they’ve had to overcome is balancing their time, schedules and personal systems for reporting to all of their classes so they can keep on top of the workload,” said Aiwohi.

“Our school is now transitioning into a blended mode of instruction, and both boys plan to return to campus for classes.”

With its semifinalist honor, the Kaua‘i High team will have to record a video to showcase its project to advance through future phases of the competition and eligibility to earn additional prizes and educational opportunities.

The school #SamsungSolve team was one of four Red Raider student groups entering project proposals, said Principal Marlene Leary.

“Our Red Raider community congratulates Gen and Robert’s bio-artificial leaf proposal and semifinal accomplishments in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow,” Leary said in an email.

“These gentlemen are wonderful examples of up-and-coming trailblazers in STEM,” said Leary.

“Their proposal shows innovation and creativity in solving global environmental problems such as air pollution. In addition to this semifinalist proposal, there were three other Kaua’i High School student groups who entered their proposals. We are so proud of all of them,” she said.

“I would also like to also thank the teachers in our STEM cohort (Aiwohi, Elena Kealoha, Leina‘ala Kealoha and Crystal Ozaki), who have assisted our students along their journey,” she said.

“I am excited to see how Gen and Robert’s concept will better our world. I ask the our community to support them as they progress through the different stages of the Samsung Competition.”

If the Red Raider team reaches the national finalist level that will be announced later this spring, the team will present their project to a panel of judges.

Seven of the 10 national finalist schools will be awarded $65,000 in technology and classroom materials, while the remaining three will be named national winners and each receive grand prizes of $130,000 in classroom technology and supplies for their achievements.

Public voting will also determine two community choice winners from the pool of national finalists that will be eligible to win an additional $15,000 in Samsung technology.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or

  1. I saw a Vampire once January 15, 2021 12:21 am Reply

    I just switched from Samsung to iPhone Apple. The mobile i have now is great. I just installed a video chat and working well. COVID-19 APP that they had downloadable for free to tell when incoming virus holder is near. Are they disqualifying anyone for not owning a Note Samsung galaxy mobile phone?

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