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

Aloha Edwin - we have a group of kids doing a project where they take pictures of rubbish, get it, track the location & type and then reflect on ways to help minimize that type of rubbish. I still have like 10 ipad I am using now but need like 10 more devices that can take pictures and be connected to the WiFi. Do you have any suggestions? I saw the iPads on the site but it says you only have 7 of the 16mb and 10 of the 32mb. I am assuming I have the 32mb ones? If so, would it be possible to borrow the 7 16mb? Also, I know you have old iPods. Would those be good to take picts and hook with the Internet?

Apr 15 2021 - 9:44pm

edwinjcolon's picture

Aloha @pyerxa - I would recommend using our iPads minis. They are easier to manage when taking pictures and will connect to the internet if you have your school internet password. I will prepare a set of 10 and have them ready for pick up as soon as possible. Let us know if you need anything else.

Apr 16 2021 - 11:03am
edwinjcolon's picture

From @pyerxa
I finally got a grant for the remote controls and batteries for the cars the kids will make. However, the products I had on Amazon's wishlist were gone. I'm on amazon choosing the products. However, I don't want to order the wrong ones. Can you possibly make me a wish list (Amazon - preferably Prime) that has:
1. The remote (gonna order 10)
2. A good rechargeable 3.7V lithium-ion battery (gonna order 12)
3. A charger for the batteries (for 12 batteries)
4. A single battery clip holder for each battery (gonna order 12)
I honestly don't totally know what to look for and this would so help me out. Excited to have the kids back so we can build them. Mahalo for your help.

Aug 24 2020 - 10:24am

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edwinjcolon's picture

Aloha @pyerxa

Most of the Li-Ion batteries on Amazon do not ship to Hawaii individually. I found a bundle flashlight with 8 batteries at a good price (prime) that might ship. Batteries can also be purchased locally at Battery Bills or similar stores.

Here is the link for the wishlist with all the items requested:

Let us know if you need anything else. We are looking forward to seeing the outcome of your project. Mahalo!

Aug 24 2020 - 12:01pm
pyerxa's picture

U rule! Mahalo Nui! I always need flashlights anyways. will work perfect:)

Aug 24 2020 - 2:23pm
pyerxa's picture

Aloha Edwin - On your Amazon list you have some flashlight/batteries/charger & then a separate charger. Do u think the charger that comes with the flashlights would suffice or should I spend the money on the better charger?

Aug 25 2020 - 2:29pm
edwinjcolon's picture


I was not sure if wanted to charge all 12 batteries at the same time. With the two chargers from the flashlight bundle kits and one extra charger you can charge all 12 at the same time. In my opinion, the charger in the bundle looks cheap. I would buy at least one of the better charger and use the ones included in the bundle as backup.

Let me know what you think.

Aug 25 2020 - 3:55pm
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!

See the rest of the Leaves...