Public Invited to Tour “Technology Petting Zoo”


Not many companies in Hawaii have research labs where scientists experiment with novel tools and techniques in areas ranging from computer systems design to medical sensors to material science. I suspect only one company in Hawaii designates part of its research facilities the “Technology Petting Zoo.” Fortunately, that one company is opening its doors to the public to give them a glimpse of some of the cutting-edge and often unusual work that they do.

Oceanit is one of Hawaii’s leading research and development firms, often exploring “dual use” technologies, developing specialized solutions for the military or large industries but also adapting them for commercial or even consumer use. The local poster child for “design thinking,” the firm has created products (and launched startups) out of their work in nanotechnology, biochemistry, engineering, and hardware and software development.

I tend to focus on the individual entrepreneur, the feisty startup, and the grassroots movement, but Hawaii is fortunate to have a full continuum of tech from the weekend app developer all the way up to the complex, concurrent challenges that Oceanit tackles.

While it might sound serious and a little dry — and I’m sure a fair amount of the work is — the company has baked innovation into its core recipe.

“We are skilled disrupters, provocateurs, wave makers,” declares the company website. “Our mind-to-market approach brings disruptive thinking, science and engineering to create new knowledge and technology for humans and society.”

And when it comes to policy, Oceanit is usually front and center at the state Capitol, and well known to our congressional delegation. If anything, its advocacy and outreach efforts have become even more critical since the end of the Inouye Era.

A lot of that outreach is led by my friend and fellow geek Ian Kitajima (who also recruited me to serve with him on the board of the Jodo Mission of Hawaii, noted previously). He was instrumental in connecting Oceanit with yesterday’s Hawaii Geek Meet, combining its annual company picnic with our motley crew, bringing exhibits, activities for kids… and hundreds of bottles of water.

Kitajima is also a key part of Oceanit’s public tour program, which they started due to demand last year, and are now looking to conduct monthly. The tours will build upon experience hosting visits for local schools.

“We still do private tours,” he notes. “I did two groups last week, more than 25 incoming 9th graders to McKinley High School and 35 incoming freshman to KCC’s ‘Ike STEM program.”

The tours will include the aforementioned “Technology Petting Zoo” as well as the company’s design and scientific laboratories.

“The ‘Tech Petting Zoo’ is a special section in the office where you can touch and play with stuff,” Kitajima explains.

The next tour will be on Friday, July 17 from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., with another set for Aug. 21, and they will continue on every third Friday of the month. Oceanit’s offices are at 828 Fort Street Mall, between Queen and Merchant streets. For more information, visit, or the company page on Facebook (where you can also find more photos of the Geek Meet!).


Photos courtesy Oceanit on Facebook.

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