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 - Looking for altimeter for my 2-Liter rockets. I bought like 4 of the Estes ones but they only worked properly the first few times I used them. Can you let me know what you would suggest me get? Mahalo

Jun 11 2019 - 4:24pm

edwinjcolon's picture

Aloha Paige,

The altimeter that basically is replacing the Estes Altimeter is the Jolly Logic Altimeter. They offer three models: AltimeterOne, AltimeterTwo, and AltimeterThree. Their prices range from $50 to $100 each. Specs can be found in this link: but I found them at a better price at


Jun 12 2019 - 10:16am
thayamichi's picture

Thank you for your prompt reply. I will contact you aw well as continue to study about the topic.
I would like to set up a monitoring system for hydroponic facilities which would include water level, water temperature, pH, EC value. These data are connected with wifi and will be sent to the facility manager.
Thank you

thayamichi's picture

This will be a part of inquiry hydroponic lab lesson plan which we will working during this summer for the next school year.
We would like to know if someone in your office is familiar with constructing LED light using LED diodes for the indoor hydroponic system. We need to create indoor hydroponic LED lights using different ratio of various color diodes.

May 28 2019 - 10:30am

edwinjcolon's picture

Hi @thayamichi,

Thanks for your post. We are asking our staff and will get back to you as soon as possible.

May 28 2019 - 5:38pm
randallshinn's picture

Good Evening! Are there any other middle schools (grades 6-8) on Oahu or any of the other islands that are using the integrated NGSS model in their science department? If so, would you be willing to discuss how your school unpacked and bundled the standards? The process that your department took to get to where you are? The potential roadblocks that you ran into?

If you rather have the discussion over the phone, I'm all for it.

If not, I would appreciate any contact and contact information that you would be willing to share.


pyerxa's picture

Aloha Edwin - been thinking of a lot of different design challenges I can do with circuits (I try to design my challenges to fit what my students are interested in). I usually use the motors from the solar sprint and then add a switch. I would love to use some type of bluetooth device that could initiate closing the circuit (act as a switch). Gonna try get one of the 433MHZ 1CH DC 6V Wireless remote control switch relay controller module transmitter receivers you showed my on Amazon. If for some reason you run into something better please let me know. Mahalo

May 7 2019 - 10:39pm

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pyerxa's picture

Aloha Edwin - I ordered a few 3.7V lithium rechargeable batteries to try out (w/ some battery holders). I have chargers for AA that are adjustable. Can I charge a 3.7V on the 1.5V charger? Also, wanted to buy some twist wire connectors on Amazon. Approximately what guage wire do you think I should buy it for considering the wires we use for the remotes, battery holders, & alligator clips?

Jul 3 2019 - 10:38am
edwinjcolon's picture

Hi Paige - I will need the brand and the model of the charger to verify the Specs and answer your question about the charging the batteries. Just in case, this charger can charge your batteries:

There are higher capacity chargers in case you need to charge more than two batteries at once.

Would recommend buying wire gauges 20 or 18 and Easy Twist-on Caps Grey Color (For wires Gauge 22-14).

Jul 3 2019 - 12:07pm

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