A group of incoming freshman and sophomores at Kapiʻolani Community College is learning how to make guitars and examining bacteria in poi. They are also working on a large mural that combines science and the kumulipo, or Hawaiian creation chant.

Along the way, they’re preparing for the rigors of college level classes and sharpening their mathematics skills all while learning that math and science can be fun.

“Most definitely,” said Aaron Adams. “Just the amount of experiences I gained, it’s priceless.”

Fellow incoming freshman Shyanne Humel agrees. “It opens up the first door to the academic part of college and I like that,” said Humel.

The students are talking about the Summer Bridge Program run by Kapiʻolani’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.

During the six week long Summer Bridge Program the 65 participants spend their mornings in accelerated math classes to get them up to college level and their afternoons in fun, science or engineering related activities like making your own guitar.

“It teaches you how to study yourself and how to take care of yourself more than anything,” said Adams. “It works, it really does.”

“It taught me to pace myself,” said Humel. “I learned that you need to slow it down and it’s good. It’s also at KCC so now I know the campus and I can help my friends who are coming here.”

The program also incorporates science and math with Hawaiian culture and values, making it more relatable for many of the students.

“When you can relate to something, it makes it more fun,” said Melanie Keliipuleole, who will be a sophomore at Kapiʻolani. “And when people have fun, they get more into it and it’s just exciting. It gets you excited to learn and create.”

That is the STEM program’s ultimate goal, to get students excited about math and science.

“We learned about bugs and viruses and we learned that Listerine really doesn’t work,” said Humel. “I was shocked!”

Adams enjoyed making his own guitar. “It was my favorite part about this whole experience,” said Adams. “I play guitar. It just fits perfectly, just the process of making it was fun to say the least.”

Participants receive college credits and a small laptop computer upon completion of the program. They know firsthand that Kapiʻolani’s STEM Program is there to help, no matter what time of year it is.