STEM Pre-Academy

Welcome to STEM Pre-Academy!

STEM Pre-Academy fosters inspiration and relevance in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through collaborative interaction between middle school teachers, university researchers and subject matter experts. Multidisciplinary interaction takes place in the form of teacher workshops, technical support and tools, and is driven by teacher inquiry and need. This statewide program helps educators in Hawai‘i’s public middle schools develop research-inspired technologies and processes and implement them in student curriculum and activities.

STEM Pre-Academy provides similar collaborative educational experiences that enable University of Hawai‘i research students to interact with Hawai‘i teachers and students in the classroom, in the field, and through online participation.

Through its projects and partnerships, STEM Pre-Academy introduces teachers to STEM research, technology, and innovation—supplying their students with the inspiration to consider technology and educational workforce possibilities in their future careers.

Mad Science Takes Root at Wheeler Middle School - Growing into the NGSS

Traditional science instruction has alternated between classroom lectures on content and labs, where the concepts are explored through experiments. While this method can effectively deliver a science curriculum, it may limit opportunities to explore concepts through a real-world lens. With full implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) mandate drawing closer, educators are transitioning to a multifaceted (three-dimensional, if you will) approach rooted in student involvement and experiential learning.

With STEM Pre-Academy support, Wheeler Middle School has begun this transition. This school year, William Falzarano and his 7th grade students have been applying engineering design process to their life science content. Using elements of the engineering design process and the engineering notebook, students individually designed mini-hydroponics containers to grow heads of Anuenue lettuce. Falzarano shares that “the students benefit from learning to maintain a[n engineering] notebook, creating something they are responsible for, and taking care of a living thing.”

The 9 week germination-to-harvest process is designed to fit into an academic quarter. The simplicity of the non-circulating Kratky method creates an ideal balance between content immersion and time effectiveness; after initial setup, students monitored their plant’s progress regularly, but did not need to work excessively to maintain its growth. The largely self-sustaining system freed up the majority of the quarter to cover other content, and could also be used as a springboard for teaching other material. This kind of flexibility makes the project both scalable and adaptable to many different classroom situations.

Hydroponics in the classroom allows for a tangible learning experience integrating life science principles deeply rooted in earth science, environmental phenomena and sustainability practices. The simplicity of these student-designed systems encourages pupils to share their learning at home, and may help to bridge the gap between school and family support systems. The call for recycled containers was met with enthusiastic response from parents and school community—parents endorsed the project by supplying enough containers to support implementation for the majority of the school year.

Problem-solving project opportunities such as this help students develop critical skills and confidence that better prepare them for life beyond middle school. After two quarters of successful implementation, Leighton Nakamoto, Wheeler Middle School Vice Principal remarked that “the students really connect with the creativity and design process… it’s important to allow them to engage with the subject in a way that better prepares them to effectively pursue their interests.”

With Mad Science and the Anuenue lettuce in good hands, Wheeler Middle School looks forward to future opportunities for hands-on learning and the engineering design process in the classroom.

Want to learn more? Contact us!

Cosmic Rays

A Cosmic Addition to Our Website!

2017 was a exciting year for collaboration with Dr. Veronica Bindi, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. We kicked off the partnership with a hosted presentation by Dr. Bindi for students and teachers entitled, When is the Best Time to Send Astronauts to Mars? We kept the collaboration going with a research-inspired project to design and build a low-cost particle detector that will, when complete, be an excellent hands-on resource for teachers and students.

We're happy to announce some fantastic resources available now on our online Space Particle Group Outreach pages. You'll find edited videos of the When is the Best Time to Send Astronauts to Mars? presentation, as well as a wealth of other materials and resources related to Dr. Bindi's exciting work.

Please check it out, and stay tuned for a bunch more exciting updates!

Research and Engineering Design Skills Clinic Featured!

RED Clinic

The October, 2017 Research and Engineering Design Skills Clinic for Students and Teachers (RED) event has been featured in the University of Hawai‘i news!

Check it out!

(And also have a look at the video trailer that was produced!)

Julie Segawa

Diving Deeper - A Teacher’s Experience with C-MORE Science Kits in the Classroom with Julia Segawa

As an 8th grade Earth and Space Science teacher, Julia Segawa enjoys “watching science come alive through hands-on, content-related activities.” Julia is the Stevenson Middle School host for the STEM Pre-Academy C-MORE Science Kits, and uses the kits to supplement her curriculum throughout the year. Read more...

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality - Ready, Set, Go!

Virtual reality and augmented reality are on the rise in classrooms. Here's a primer on getting started. Read more...

The Leaves

pyerxa's picture

I was a little disappointed in the quality of the final prototypes. Students really did not want to try different gear ratios no matter how much time I gave them. I required them to try 3 different gear ratios but only 2 teams tried more than 1. Also, still having trouble with getting the kids to write out a quality plan before creating their product. No matter how much time I give them they always wait til the last minute and then are rushed and don't do quality work. A work in progress. Let me know if you find anything that works for other teachers. Was a great design challenge and worked a lot better w/o the solar panel. I didn't get $ for the remotes yet so the kids put a switch on it. Mahalo for your help

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Photo Credit: Ms. Yerxa took picture
Jan 6 2020 - 10:34am

edwinjcolon's picture

@pyerxa The Street Racer looks really nice. Thanks for sharing the experience you had with this project and your students. We will let you know if one of our teachers has a better approach to make the students better at planing and documenting their design process before actually building the prototype. I'm looking forward to seeing this project with the remote, that will be the next step up. Thanks.

Jan 6 2020 - 6:22pm
pyerxa's picture

BTW - here is the winning car for my GrEgg the Street Racer design challenge

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Photo Credit: Ms. Yerxa took the picture.
pyerxa's picture

Aloha Edwin - I was thinking of doing a design challenge to make an iPhone cover and I saw that MakerBot Replicator Mini+ Compact 3D printer. I have a few questions. Is this thing pretty hard to use and figure out? How expensive is the material used to make the product? Would it make a cell phone cover? Happy New Year!

MWeinhouse's picture

My students are just LOVING the ozobots you left with me. They had finished up a csfirstwith google project and so they already knew how to use the Scratch program. Thank you for telling me about them.

Dec 9 2019 - 5:34am

caroline.wood's picture

@MWeinhouse I am so glad! I thought you and your students might enjoy them. I love the natural progression that you've built in, using the Ozobots for students to apply their Scratch skills in a different way. Thanks for letting us know that things are going well!

Dec 9 2019 - 8:36am
MWeinhouse's picture

Can you use the Ozobots with ChromeBooks? I thought I would have iPads but they are unavailable. Thanks for any insight on the EVO's usage in classrooms.

Nov 30 2019 - 10:28pm

caroline.wood's picture

Aloha @MWeinhouse,

Definitely! You can have your students work through the OzoBlockly platform:

Here, they can create their program and load it into the Evo by holding the bot to the screen. (Quick tip: this works best if the screen brightness is set to maximum.)

PVUSD Coding Academy has some good information that might be useful, as well:

If you have any questions or difficulty, please do let us know!

Dec 2 2019 - 8:35am

See the rest of the Leaves...