The June 27 lava flow is spurring innovation and promoting collaboration despite its threat to the Puna community and the utility infrastructure that lies in its path.
Hawaii Electric Light would like to thank the many people who shared their ideas for protecting utility infrastructure from the lava’s extreme heat. The design process started in late August and involved numerous drafts. Multiple factors were considered, and the final design was a collaborative effort between Hawaii Electric Light, the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The partnership was instrumental in helping the company understand the characteristics of lava and how to best reduce the short and long-term heat impact to the infrastructure. Our partners continue to assist us with post-impact evaluations. The key contributors were:
Hawaii Electric Light
- Michael Iwahashi, Assistant Superintendent, Construction & Maintenance
- Construction & Maintenance Division
University of Hawaii at Hilo
- Dr. Kenneth Hon, Professor of Geology
U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
- Tim Orr, Geologist
- Matthew Patrick, Geologist
Among those submitting a pole protection design was Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science (HAAS) Public Charter School in Pahoa. Although the design was not used, Hawaii Electric Light recognizes their innovation which paralleled the efforts of experienced professionals.
The design was created by high school students in the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) program. Their assignment began with a question: “What can you do to help the community?”
“Our STEM class firmly feels necessity is the mother of invention,” said Eric Clause, lead STEM instructor. “When the students designed the power pole barriers, we looked at using materials that were ready and available and would work under the harsh conditions a lava flow would pose. We were really stoked when HELCO released similar design plans.”
PHOTO (L-R): HAAS STEM students Chalongrat Boat Prakopdee, Michael Dodge, Logan Treaster, Maya Anderson, and Jordan Drewer.
Photo credit: Hawaii Academy of Arts & Science PCS
The students are Maya Anderson, Michael Dodge, Jordan Drewer, Henry LaPointe, Lyric Peat, Chalongrat Boat Prakopdee, and Logan James Treaster. In addition to the pole protection design, the STEM students designed an air purifier that can filter hydrogen sulfide, a heat resistant bridge that is cooled by flowing clean water, and a desalinization system that can provide quality drinking water. Some students also are involved in the Hope for HAAS project using social media to raise funds to help HAAS accommodate displaced students in areas affected by the flow.
“Hawaii Electric Light applauds the students at HAAS for their innovation, creativity, and foresight,” said spokeswoman Rhea Lee. “With a lava flow headed their way, they responded proactively and not only developed a conceptual design to help protect power poles, but searched for other ways to help the community in which they live. These are qualities that we value and look for in our employees.”
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