Local K-12 teachers partner with CoP to teach engineering principles

July 9, 2012

Educators from the Hilo-Laupahoehoe-Waiākea Complex continued to learn about teaching engineering concepts during a four-day workshop May 29-June 1 at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo College of Pharmacy (CoP).

The workshop was the second one offered under a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (NSF-ERC) outreach grant to K-12 teachers in the complex, led by Ken Morris, professor in CoP’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Locally, the program is a collaboration between the Hawaiʻi Department of Education and CoP in an effort to give more students an understanding of engineering concepts to help them explore and possibly choose exciting careers that will help meet the expanding needs of Hawaiʻi.

Complex Area Superintendent Valerie Takata and state science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) resource teacher Bess Jennings invited faculty members from STEM disciplines to attend the course, which combined classroom instruction with hands-on laboratory exercises.

Janice Harvey, community outreach and education programs leader at the Hawaiʻi “Journey through the Universe” project at the Gemini Observatory, helped link the CoP-driven effort with her network after eight years of collaborative projects with the school system.

Andrea Wilson, K-8 teacher at Kalanianaole Elementary School, took the one-day course in December and returned for the more extensive workshop this summer.

“I believe we need to give younger students opportunities to get involved in STEM activities because that’s where the jobs are,” she said. “At least we need to give them options.”

Levelle Burr-Alexander, associate director, K-20 Partnership at the Center for Pre-College Programs at New Jersey Technical Institute (NJIT), came to Hilo to lead the design and delivery portion of the course for the NSF-ERC.

“We try to help teachers show their pre-college students practical applications of what they’re learning in math and science classes,” Burr-Alexander said. “Hawaiʻi has amazing resources in the faculty that is training the younger generation. Armed with the type of information in these STEM workshops for secondary school teachers, they can increase their effectiveness in helping their students break down some of the barriers that have traditionally prevented many adolescence to become active in a STEM future.”

The program is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center on Structured Organic Particulate Systems (NSF-ERC-SOPS), with UH Hilo as an outreach partner.

See more news from 2012.