Last week, Oceanit’s Tech Sherpa, Ian Kitajima, hosted a virtual talk story with STEM education professionals from across Hawaii to talk about a new initiative he is pioneering for students to gain hands-on industry experience. This new program, which he calls KILO, proposes incorporating student interns into real projects, involving real clients and next-generation technologies.
Kilo addresses key hurdle to valuable internship programs—industry professionals are often too busy to work with students in their internship program. Although they might want to help out, any time spent mentoring a student is time taken away from that professional’s ‘real’ job. The KILO framework flips that upside down. By having interns work on real client projects, Ian argues, professionals are able to offer mentorship for the full duration of the project without taking much away from client time.
In this approach, internships stop being separate programs or administrative work at the fringes of a project. Instead, they become fully integrated with the project, leveraging students’ education and imaginations for real work.
Ian shared the results of a pilot project with students from Hawaii Technology Academy and the Hawaii Department of Transportation Highways Division. In early 2020, DOT Highways Deputy Director Ed Sniffen contacted Ian to discuss using Artificial Intelligence and student input to improve traffic safety along Farrington Highway. With the assistance of Oceanit and HTA advisor Mary Wenstrom, students used Design Thinking methodology to propose questions, collect and analyze data using AI, and present their findings to Deputy Director Sniffen.
Mary Wenstrom joined Ian on the call to give an educator’s perspective, explaining the impact the internships had on the students and fielding practical questions from teachers.
Over the next few months, Ian has several other projects he’d like to include cohorts of students on including work with the public libraries and the Kohala Center.