One to Watch: Matai Loveman ’23

Matai Loveman ’23 has wanted to work with his hands for as long as he can remember. “I grew up watching car and motorcycle TV shows with my dad,” he says. “I wanted to be the guy welding the motorcycle together and using big fabrication machines.”

Fast forward to today – Loveman is president of Punahou’s Design Technology and Engineering Club. He also has accumulated a host of accolades – Athlete of the Year in eighth grade, Engineering Excellence Award in his freshman year, and a Chemistry Recognition Award as a sophomore.

Recently, the junior and his Engineering IV classmates fabricated a battery-powered and solar-charged miniature train, along with a 250-foot track, that can be set up at events to illustrate the vast potential of renewable and alternative energy. The train recently thrilled young riders at Carnival.

Loveman began working on the steel locomotive unofficially as a sophomore, helping juniors in the train class with bending steel for the tracks and welding. When the class ended, the train wasn’t complete, so Loveman carried on with the project, spending his free time at the D. Kenneth Richardson ’48 Learning Lab to complete the build with a few other motivated classmates. Eventually, the group plans to take the train on a tour of schools around Hawai‘i. “The ultimate goal is to inspire other kids about engineering and clean energy,” Loveman says. “It’s powerful to have students think about how they can individually contribute to a sustainable future.”

For college, Loveman is looking at industrial design and engineering programs, but he wants to make sure he continues to have hands-on opportunities. “I’m nervous about picking the right type of program,” he says. “There are programs that mostly take place in a classroom, but I want a program that’s also going to put me in the workshop building things. Cutting a giant piece of wood on a bandsaw is awesome.”

Junior Dean Deane Salter ’98 describes Loveman’s ability to follow his passions as inspiring. “He pursues interests with an uncommon drive and because of true intellectual curiosity rather than the pursuit of some external validation or recognition,” he says. “With his strong drive and work ethic, I imagine he will make major contributions in STEM.”

While engineering remains his primary focus, Loveman is an accomplished athlete, training in competitive swimming and baseball since the third grade. He also made Punahou’s varsity water polo team, a sport he hopes to play in college.

Last year, he was a member of the 18U Hawai‘i team at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, held in Dallas. In addition, he represented the state on the Olympic Development Program Zone Team, which grooms promising athletes for national water polo teams.

He is also passionate about music, playing bass for an alternative rock band called Monkey Bread. The six-member group, all Punahou students, perform live gigs, including at last year’s Sophomore Lu¯‘au and at a recent junior talent show. Inspired by rock bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Monkey Bread has three songs on Spotify with more recordings to come.

Loveman believes his journey as a student-athlete-musician was facilitated because of adjustments he had to make earlier in his life. He arrived at Punahou in the seventh grade, after spending his childhood in Tokyo, where he studied at the American School. The transition had its ups and downs. “Japan is so safe that even as a 10-year-old I could ride a bike to see friends or take the train by myself,” he says. “But when we moved here, freedom certainly diminished. That was a big change.”

Nevertheless, he decided to make the most of his new environment, following his interests and opening himself up to make friends. “The first day of class I was sick to my stomach with nerves, but within the first couple of days, I had made some buddies and things just took off from there,” he says.

By Gina Gelber

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