2018 Research and Engineering Design Clinic for Middle School Students and Teachers

STEM Pre-Academy and the College of Engineering (COE), University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa presented the second annual Research and Engineering Design (RED) Clinic for Middle School Teachers and Students on Saturday, September 22, 2018, on the UH Mānoa campus.

As in 2017, this year’s event brought the concepts and processes of engineering design into the hands Hawai‘i’s public middle school teachers and students.  While students were inspired to improve the quality of their research and engineering design projects, teachers had an opportunity to see the process modeled by UH faculty and engineering students for later use in their own classrooms.

A primary learning catalyst for both teachers and students was the integration of the university research community into the clinic.  Participants were able to hear directly from researchers about the types of projects on which they work, and then practice the same processes, skills, and collaborative review that are vital to university-level research.

Students and teachers learned how to apply design specifications based on customer and technical need—skills built on a solid foundation of scientific and engineering principles.  Participation in a formal design review with engineering faculty and students brought validity and rigor to the iterative design process.

Eighteen teachers and thirty-eight of their students, representing nine O‘ahu public middle schools, attended the one-day event, held in the Campus Center Ballroom and in various engineering labs around the UH Mānoa campus.  The schools in attendance included:

  • Āliamanu Middle School
  • Highlands Intermediate School
  • Jarrett Middle School
  • Kahuku High & Intermediate School
  • Kāne‘ohe Elementary School (Grade 6)
  • Kapolei Middle School
  • King Intermediate School
  • Nānākuli High & Intermediate School
  • Washington Middle School

The students were welcomed to the clinic with a speech by Dr. Aaron Ohta, UH Mānoa professor of electrical engineering and director of the UH Vertically Integrated Projects (UH VIP) program.

Dr. Darren Carlson, UH Mānoa assistant professor of electrical engineering and founder of the Ambient Computing Group touched on the opportunities and the pitfalls presented by an ever-growing constellation of connected devices in the internet of things.

A centerpiece of this year’s clinic was the Urban Wind Generator Design Challenge.  Students and teachers were tasked to design, build, test, and then redesign a blade assembly for a vertical wind turbine.

Representing Kapi‘olani Community College, Dr. Aaron Hanai, assistant professor of math and sciences, and Matsu Thornton, UH Mānoa graduate student in electrical engineering, led participants through Kick-Start Your Design Skills, a presentation that eloquently introduced the science behind turbine blade design while sharing their own academic and professional expertise.  Later in the day, Dr. Hanai selected student blade prototypes for a design review, also an integral phase of the iterative design process.

Undergraduate students from the UH VIP program and a group of COE students assisted the fledging engineers in their design challenge.  Davin Sasaki, STEM Pre-Academy project manager added, “The team designed the clinic to provide students and teachers an opportunity to develop research and engineering design skills for lifelong learning and success in STEM professions.”

Following the design challenge, participants were invited to take part in a tour of UH engineering labs and the UH Research Showcase.

University of Hawai‘i Lab Tours

  • University of Hawaii Drone Technologies Lab
  • Renewable Energy Design Lab
  • Autonomous Aerospace Systems Lab

University of Hawai‘i Research Showcase

  • Green Roof System Design
  • Human Powered Vehicles
  • IOT (Internet of Things) Hydroponics
  • Residential Hot Water Heater Demand Response System

To cap off a busy day, Ms. Geena Wann-Kung, who is currently studying electrical engineering at UH Mānoa, spoke from the perspective of an undergraduate woman in engineering.  Geena shared the academic path that brought her from Kapi‘olani Community College, through international competitions at NASA facilities, and finally to COE.

At the end of it all, Regina Wilson, a science teacher at Kapolei Middle School shared, “It was incredible to watch my students design and collaborate together.  The engineering design process affords students an opportunity to explore options and increase curiosity. My students were encouraged to talk and think like engineers – and these middle schoolers truly valued the interest that the college students had in their designs and the feedback that was offered. One of my students commented about how much she loved the feedback on her ideas during the process.”

The Research and Engineering Design Clinic for Middle School Students and Teachers was made possible by teachers, students, clinic developers, volunteers, University of Hawai‘i faculty, the UH Mānoa College of Engineering, and the UH Vertically Integrated Projects program.

STEM Pre-Academy looks forward to convening a new RED Clinic in Fall, 2019 – expanding the possibilities for the collaboration of research, engineering, and education for middle school teachers and students in Hawai‘i.