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

zwatanabe's picture

When is the next engineering and design clinic?

Jan 28 2019 - 10:34am

sasakidy's picture

Aloha Zachary,

Thank you for your Leaves posting! We are excited to let you know that we are currently planning for the next Research and Engineering Design (RED) Clinic. The tentative plan is to hold the clinic this September (14th or 28th - please hold these dates!) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus. Students will gain valuable research and engineering design skills, and teachers will be able to model research and engineering design process and skills in the classroom.

If you have any questions about the clinic please let us know and we will keep everyone posted on the development of the 2019 RED Clinic, so please stay tuned!



Jan 30 2019 - 11:07pm
melanie's picture

A question about the Makey Makey it a classroom set (like the ozobots' set of 18 is a class set) or is one kit per student? Mahalo in advance.

Jan 11 2019 - 10:39am

caroline.wood's picture

Aloha Melanie,

The Makey Makeys actually come as individual kits. Most teachers find success providing one kit for each student.

Hope this helps, and please let us know if you have any additional questions!



Jan 11 2019 - 11:08am
thayamichi's picture

I would like to borrow a spectrophotometer from our office inventory if available and wonder any resources on DNA quantitative method using a spectrophotometer on your side.
Thank you

Dec 4 2018 - 3:05pm

caroline.wood's picture

Aloha @thayamichi,

Thanks for reaching out—it's always wonderful to hear from you! We absolutely have a spectrophotometer for you to borrow, and we'll pull together some literature and resources for quantitatively measuring DNA and RNA. I'll follow up with you.



Dec 4 2018 - 7:56pm
sasakidy's picture

Hi Randy,

The attached PDF is a great resource with detailed teacher instruction on how to build a DC (Direct Current) motor from the Ohio State University - K-12 ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Outreach Program.

The material includes basic concepts of electromagnetism and connects to NGSS standard MS-PS2-3 on electromagnets.

Dr. Anderson from Ohio State University designed the activity to be completed in a single class period and selected parts that can be purchased inexpensively so, students may keep them or the parts can be re-used for other students. Dr Anderson granted us permission and encourages to use their materials.

If you have any questions please let us know!

Davin and the Team

Document Credit: Professor Betty Lise Anderson, Ohio State University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
randallshinn's picture

Good Afternoon,

We are looking for support or tips on teaching electromagnets to our students at Ewa Makai. We are planning an investigation for the following standard (MS-PS2-3) on electromagnets. We will be using the world simplest motor to get the students attention before having them ask questions. Would you have any other options that we could to enhance their understanding based on the standard?


See the rest of the Leaves...