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Meet Matthew Eftink

This month’s HSTE Member Highlight features Matthew Eftink, educator and STEM Chairperson at St. Joseph Catholic School in Hilo, on the island of Hawaii. Matthew grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering at St. Louis University. He then pursued a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He currently resides in Hawaii with his wife, Andrea, his two children, Johnathan (14) and Daniel (12), and their dog, Shadow. Eftink has been working at St. Joseph Catholic School for the past five years and foudn himself there because the school had a need for a math and science teacher. He started by volunteering to help out in a few classes and with the school’s Robotics program; but before he knew it, it became a full time job.

Read on and get to know Matthew in the Q & A section below!

Q : How did you first get involved in HSTE? What made you want to join?

A : I joined HTSE after hearing about it from some of the other robotics coaches on the Big Island.

Q : Describe your journey from software engineer to educator.

A :  I had spent almost 20 years being a software developers at various companies and at different levels in the organizations.  I was finding that I was spending more time at work, then at home.  I really liked software development so it was easy for me to get lost at work, and not come home to my family.  So the family made a decision to move to the Big Island, and slow down a little bit.  After the first year on the Big Island of just relaxing, I was extremely restless.  I started to volunteer wherever I could.  When I volunteered at St. Joseph to coach robotics, it felt very comfortable.  The volunteer job grew into a full time teaching position.

Q : If we were to catch you on a weekend, what would you most likely be doing?

A : If I am not doing school work or chores, I would probably be writing software.  I really do enjoy the process of designing and creating things, and software is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get that thrill.

Q : What is your favorite food?

A : Prime Rib

Q : Why do you think tech integration is important for students?

A :  I have worked in an industry (software) that has an ever growing need for people that can think logically and problem solve.  I believe that technology used correctly can help students do that.  The problems I face as an educator is that too many times we believe typing on a phone or computer, means that our students are using technology so they are also learning problem solving skills.  But the two can be mutually exclusive.   You only learn problem solving skills when thing breaks or doesn't work.  So I really like to embrace technology in the classroom that breaks, and the students have to learn how to fix it.   Robotics is a great tool in that respect.

Q : What is one thing you’ve done at your school that you’re proud of?

A : I think the thing I am most proud of at St. Joseph is students graduating and going to good colleges to be engineers and software developers.  I honestly believe in the next 30 years those jobs are going to be the ones that are the safest from automation.  So those students should have long and prosperous careers.

Q : Any advice for other educators wanting to get involved in robotics?

A : Don’t be afraid if you don’t know something, or anything.  Students should see teachers learning, and struggling.  How we work through problems and persevere is a very valuable lesson.  Having our students see that in action is important.

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