Big Island teachers team with College of Pharmacy at engineering workshop

January 3, 2012

Twenty-nine local teachers will be better equipped to introduce engineering concepts to their students after attending a workshop during their Christmas break. The workshop was led by the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo College of Pharmacy on campus December 16.

“Engineering plays an important role in many careers, including pharmaceutical manufacturing,” said Ken Morris, professor of pharmaceutical sciences who led the one-day workshop that provided tools teachers need to inspire students to look into engineering careers. “This represents a huge opportunity to address many issues on the Big Island, from energy generation to the observatories, to roads and bridges.”

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.

The opportunity to attend the workshop was offered to educators in the Hilo-Laupahoehoe-Waiākea Complex who teach science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM disciplines. Future plans are to offer the workshop to all Big Island school complexes.

“We hope this will provide a natural link to training students in engineering at the undergraduate level at UH Hilo and other UH campuses,” Morris said.

The course combined classroom instruction with hands-on activities and laboratory exercises that focused on understanding engineering concepts and methods. Raj Davé, distinguished professor of engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), was both an instructor and advisor for the College of Pharmacy on the engineering-specific content of the workshop. UH Hilo instructors included Mahavir Chougule, assistant professor in pharmaceutical sciences, and Mazen Hamad, assistant professor in chemistry. Xinyan Wang, undergraduate engineering coordinator at UH Hilo, organized the workshop with Bess Jennings, one of three state Department of Education (DOE) STEM resource teachers on the Big Island who attended the workshop.

“The workshop gave teachers a better understanding of the range of careers in engineering and how to interest their students in the subject,” Jennings said. “This is important because the discipline of engineering is a key aspect of the focus on revitalizing teaching and learning through STEM-based education.”

Many teachers also said they would like to see future workshops geared to elementary-level students.

“K-12 students could benefit from more exposure to these concepts so they can get excited about careers in these important developmental fields,” Davé said. “Teachers who teach STEM classes are key to communicating that excitement.”

See more news from 2012.