Students in the Honolulu Community College Engineering Academy proudly display their spaghetti bridges.

Thirty Oʻahu high school students and aspiring engineers participated in the first-ever Engineering Academy at Honolulu Community College, a four-week program that concluded during the last week of June with individual and team games.

The events included a water balloon launch, spaghetti bridge building, a surveying obstacle course and a mouse and sumo robot competition.

The program, a partnership of Honolulu Community College and Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education, is designed to teach applied engineering skills that includes mechatronics, a multidisciplinary field of engineering that integrates various areas to optimize a product’s functionality.

“We are supportive of STEM initiatives that help students explore their science and math interests while exposing them to life on a college campus,” said Karen Lee, Hawaiʻi P-20 executive director. “Both of these components are essential to their knowledge of what it means to be college- and career-ready.”

The students that participated this summer ranged from sophomores to seniors and represented schools including Campbell, Kapolei, Mililani, Punahou, ʻIolani and Mid-Pacific Institute. Only 3 out of the 30 students had any prior experience in robotics.

During the four-week program, students visited the UH Mānoa College of Engineering and the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Engineering department. Through these experiences, many of the participants have been able to pinpoint an area of concentration they wish to pursue in the engineering field.

The program also offered a section on college readiness, giving students tips and guidance as they prepare for successful entry into college.

“One student is now motivated to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test, which two weeks ago he wasn’t even interested in taking,” said Norman Takeya, Honolulu Community College assistant professor and Engineering Academy coordinator. “He plans to change his math courses for the next school year so that he will be prepared to apply for the College of Engineering at UH Mānoa. That was a primary goal of the program, to give these students the opportunity for career exploration.”

The Engineering Academy was funded by the College Access Challenge Grant, which is managed by Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education and Perkins funding for Career and Technical Education programs.

— Adapted from a Honolulu Community College news release