February 24, 2021

LHES Student Helping Keiki Learn at Home

Keiki on Lanai will find it a little easier to learn from home, thanks to LHES tenth grader Jacob Janikowski’s project to build free desks out of recycled materials. The project, “Home Learning Desks,” won him second place in the high school division of the Imi Pono Challenge. The competition for middle and high schoolers was organized by the Maui County Council to harness bold and innovative ideas for bolstering Maui County’s economy.

A solution to a pandemic problem

When the pandemic forced students to transition to online learning, Jacob realized that some kids on the island didn’t have space at home to get schoolwork done. “It’s a lot easier to focus on school when you have a dedicated area,” Jacob explained.

Brand new desks can be expensive, so when Jacob heard about the Imi Pono Challenge from Diane Preza, he got to work building affordable desk prototypes for Lanai children to use at home for homework or remote learning. He involved his classmates and others in the community to help make the project come together.

The Imi Pono Challenge received 175 entries from students all over Maui County. The entries were evaluated and scored based on creativity, feasibility, profitability, impact, resourcefulness and presentation. Judges selected 20 semi-finalists and from there, chose first, second, and third place projects from middle and high schoolers. Other winners included vertical greenhouses, money-saving sprinklers, and a student-produced show to promote Maui’s local businesses. Prizes included gift cards from $1,000 to $2,500.

Jacob’s group constructed the desks using 100% recycled materials, making them affordable and environmentally friendly. Luckily, it wasn’t too hard to come across supplies. The team reached out to different stores and organizations on the island that were more than willing to donate scrap plywood and used pallets to the cause. After disassembling the pallets and plywood, they cut, sanded, assembled, and painted the prototypes. The team ended up with five prototypes of different sizes and cuts, and will continue to make a total of 20 desks to donate to any Lanai school-age child in need.

Youth entrepreneurship and innovation

The spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation is rooted in finding solutions to a problem or common pain-point. Jacob understands that youth possess the creativity and ability to harness that spirit and get projects like this one off the ground. “To make the world a better place, we need bold and innovative ideas,” Jacob explained. “You shouldn’t be afraid to try something weird or different, or something that nobody has thought of before.”

Jacob expresses appreciation to his classmates, Shawn Abraham and Luis Dorion, his dad John Janikowski, LHES athletic director Mr. Sumagit, and woodshop staff, Mr. Weidman and Mr. Dave, who helped put the desks together. In the spirit of togetherness and unity, Jacob and his classmates committed to donating the prize money from Imi Pono to their class of 2023 fund.

Desks are still available, so please contact Jacob at if your child is interested in using a home learning table.

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