Science Fair often influences career choices for students
By Lee Cataluna
The point of the story was the importance of the Hawai'i State Science and Engineering Fair, now in its 53rd year. The piece was written by Science Fair organizers about the impact the program has on kids and how it can foster an interest in math and science into a noble career.
To illustrate that idea, a 1965 photo from The Advertiser's library ran along with the commentary written by Science Fair organizers. In it, an earnest middle-school girl worked on her science fair display, one hand holding a test tube, the other behind a calm-looking rabbit.
Gareth Wynn-Williams, professor of astronomy at the University of Hawai'i and president of the Hawai'i Academy of Science, was one of the authors of the piece. The photo intrigued him, and he set out to find the girl in the picture and to see what her participation in the Science Fair might have meant to her all these years later. As it turned out, that long-ago Science Fair was quite dear to her.
He found Joanne Araki Faulkner through a Kaimukī High School reunion site and contacted her both by e-mail and phone.
"Yes, that is me in the picture," she wrote. Araki Faulkner now lives in Topaz Lake, Nev., where she is a semi-retired nurse practitioner in a rural area.
"My Science Fair experience was one of my highlights during middle school," she recalled. "It encouraged me to continue my love for the sciences, especially in medicine."
After graduating from Kaimukī High School in 1968, she went to the University of Hawai'i, where she became a registered nurse in 1972. She then moved to California, where she worked in the intensive care and critical care units. In 1978, she got her master's from San Jose State University, and in 1998, went back to school for a post-master's degree to become a nurse practitioner. She also taught in a nursing program for 25 years.
"From a very young age, I was always interested in helping others. I also loved science, math and reading," Araki Faulkner said. About the project she entered for Science Fair, she wrote: "I can't remember why I chose the Ouchterlony procedure to do my science project on, but I know I enjoyed reading medical books and didn't mind using syringes and needles. I was a student hospital volunteer at Kaiser Medical Center (my auntie was an LVN there) and also volunteered in a nursing home in Kaimukī. Since I volunteered at these places, I was able to use the laboratory centrifuge to do my science project."
Wynn-Williams invited Araki Faulkner to attend next year's Science and Engineering Fair, and she has promised to schedule her Hawai'i vacation accordingly. As if completing a circle, the girl in the photo will become a Science Fair celebrity judge.
"Unfortunately, the rabbit is no longer with us," Wynn-Williams said.