Engineering a better tomorrow

A future engineer works on an electronics project during Hawaii Electric Light’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day event on Hawaii Island.
Feb. 28, 2017
“There’s nothing I believe in more strongly than getting young people interested in science and engineering, for a better tomorrow, for all humankind.” — Bill Nye

It’s an exciting time to be an engineer. With technology advancements in many areas of engineering, the opportunity to make a positive difference in our world is bigger than ever. In fact, “Dream Big” was the theme for the 66th annual National Engineers Week in February.

Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, National Engineers Week — or EWeek — “is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of, and interest in, engineering and technology careers.”

With our focus on renewable energy and goal of achieving 100% renewables by 2045, engineers in our three companies — Hawaiian Electric serving Oahu, Maui Electric serving Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, and Hawaii Electric Light serving Hawaii Island — know firsthand what it means to work for a better tomorrow in an ever-changing world.

“Giving back” and sharing experiences with young people are important to many of our engineers.

“STEM,” short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is learning focused on these academic disciplines. The support of STEM promotes these disciplines in education policy and curriculum, as well as real-world application.

Our companies are strong supporters of STEM education and believe in the importance of inspiring inquisitiveness and creativity in our children. Over the past 30 years, we’ve contributed more than $1.2 million to advance STEM programs and initiatives in Hawaii.

In addition to STEM education support and engineering internship programs, we promote Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day or “Girl Day” — a movement that strives to show young women how creative engineering is, and the many ways engineers are changing our world.

Despite many of the advancements our society has experienced in recent years, there’s still a marked need to encourage interest in STEM and STEM-related careers with our younger generations, especially with girls.

According to a 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, women comprise 47 percent of the total U.W. workforce, but are much less represented in science and engineering occupations. They make up 39 percent of chemists and material scientists; 28 percent of environmental scientists and geoscientists; 16 percent of chemical engineers; and just 12 percent of civil engineers (Source: U.S. News & World Report).

Stacey Ueda, a Hawaiian Electric protection engineer, is working to break that mold by showing other young women that anything is possible.

A quiet girl who grew up in a quiet neighborhood on the island of Oahu, Stacey loved puzzles as a child. This was during a time when such interests were still atypical for young girls, but her parents encouraged her curiosity and desire to tackle challenges and solve problems.

Stacey with her two children working on a building project.

Her pastime developed into a full interest in computers, which led to STEM-focused academics culminating in a degree in engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

After taking some time to live and work on the Mainland — helping to develop satellites in California — Stacey returned home to join Hawaiian Electric as a protection engineer, tackling the challenge of anticipating threats to our electrical system to ensure the continued safety of our customers, employees, and infrastructure.

When asked for her advice for young girls who want to follow in her footsteps, Stacey’s reply was a simple one: whatever you’re interested in, “just try.”

Stacey noted that the engineering field is a diverse one that provides many opportunities for those who want to pursue them, and for those that do: “you can do anything.”

Stacey Ueda, Protection Engineer, Hawaiian Electric Company
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