Project Profile

Developing and Testing Innovations: Connecting Indigenous Culture and Integrated STEM in Hawaii Through Smart AgTech


Aquaculture is an important part of Native Hawaiian heritage and culture. Fishponds were essential for community food production and held special cultural significance. Land use was managed through a traditional approach called the Ahupua’a system. Each ahupua’a was self-sufficient for the community it served and stretched from the reefs of the shoreline (makai) to the mountain ridges above (mauka). Native Hawaiians began revival of their cultural heritage over the last 50 years, including restoration of ancient fishponds and methods used to cultivate food. Decline of plantation agriculture in Hawaii over has reduced agricultural education in schools. This project aims to investigate how to integrate sustainable aquaculture practices embraced by Native Hawaiians for centuries with emerging agricultural technologies (AgTech) focused on using sensors, measurement of relevant parameters, and data science literacy. The project immerses high school students in Hawaii to the traditional knowledge and heritage of fishponds and aquaculture alongside hands-on science investigations using emerging technologies to improve agricultural practices. Students use smart farming technologies and sensors to collect data and employ data science to understand and make decisions about the best ways to grow limu (seaweed). Students gain new skills in data science and agricultural technologies in general, as well as connect with knowledge holders in their community to gain a deeper appreciation for their Hawaiian heritage, culture and knowledge.

The Institute for Future Intelligence (IFI) and the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR) collaborate to research and develop an integrated STEM curriculum focused on AgTech that will connect traditional and modern practices in aquaculture to promote culturally responsive STEM education. The efficiency and sustainability of aquaculture production can be further improved with innovative AgTech, while modern agricultural/aquacultural practices would be enhanced by the traditional Hawaiian approaches to growing food in a community that connects the mountain to the shore. The project will be piloted at Castle High School in the Windward district of Oahu. Teacher professional development workshops will be offered to STEM teachers across Hawaii. The research project takes a mixed methods approach to investigate three driving inquiries: (1) In what ways and to what extent can the project enhance student learning of AgTech, data science and AI concepts and practices through innovative use of Integrated STEM curriculum design? (2) In what ways and to what extent can the project increase students’ interest in modern smart agriculture practices and develop partnerships for career and workforce preparation when meaningful connections to place-based and traditional knowledge are integrated into the curriculum? (3) In what ways and to what extent can the project improve equitable STEM education, interest in careers in agriculture and aquaculture, and workforce preparation when modern data science and AgTech approaches are used in the curriculum? This project strives towards four outcomes: (1) students learn to use emerging AgTech and data science practices, (2) students learn STEM within the context of the historically significant aquaculture in Hawaiian society, (3) students conduct scientific research in aquaculture, and (4) students are prepared to enter the STEM workforce with knowledge of current AgTech practices or continue their education in the related fields at colleges. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2024 - 2028
Institute for future intelligence, MA
Project Status