Kupuna Life: Astronomical duo hopes to educate students to get interested in exploration, innovation

Kupuna Life

HONOLULU (KHON2) – Art and Rene Kimura are almost always together.

“I kept thinking that it seems every time a hurricane is approaching, Art was away,” Rene said.

He was in DC during Iniki, then last week, “He went back to Hilo as planned on Tuesday and Tuesday evening we got the hurricane category one news, and I said, ‘Ok, that’s sort of par for the course.” Rene said.

Her husband Art has a sense of humor, because he was laughing while saying “It’s true!”

They’ve been together through 52 years of marriage and both were teachers. Art taught biology, until 1986 when he was Hawaii’s rep for the NASA Teachers in Space Program.

He met teacher-turned-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, followed her training and that of Hawai’i’s first astronaut Ellison Onizuka, until the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger.

“When the crew died on that shuttle flight, my life changed as well as many others. Everything we’ve done since Challenger has been in honor of that crew,” Art said.

Rene and Art are education specialists with the NASA funded Hawaii Space Grant Consortium. In January, they and their partners and volunteers held their 20th annual Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Science Day.

Astronaut Lacy Veach Day on Oahu is every fall, and both events engage and inspire children’s interests in space, science and robotics.

“The main thrust of what we try to envision is that students will become interested in exploration, in innovation,” Art said.

Lacy Veach was a Punahou grad, Air Force pilot, then astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions. After 18 years of Lacy Veach Day, this year presented Art and Rene with what you’d think would be a dilemma–the pandemic, but think again.

“And so with the technology being available, we thought this was a great opportunity to think out of the box,” Rene said.

“To broaden our reach, now we can say we can reach out to the world,” Art said.

The Virtual Lacy Veach Day will have workshops like these. It’ll be five short minutes and people can use household items. There’ll still be demonstrations, keynotes, and a NASA video.

“We’ve asked NASA to provide us with a video from an astronaut on the space station floating in the cupola that Lacy helped design,” Art said.

Lacy Veach Day is October 24 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. It’s free and there’s no registration needed. Just log on to the website here.

As for Rene and Art, at 76-years-old, they see no reason to stop what they love.

“My interest is still history and social sciences but it’s so tied to stem to science so it’s really fun and exciting,” Rene said.

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