Philip von Doetinchem (middle back) and Nānākuli High students

Thanks to University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa physics Assistant Professor Philip von Doetinchem, Nānākuli high school students spent a memorable, informative week building and working with computers as part of the newly launched HIgh school students in proGramminG and Sciences (HIGGS).

Student working on computer components

During the pilot run, Doetinchem mentored the students at the Nānākuli campus, where they learned how to use highly versatile and affordable Raspberry Pi computers. Starting from the bare computer CPU board, students built up a system with multiple sensors and devices and wrote the corresponding computer code to control them.

In an entirely hands-on approach, the group worked with cameras, read out temperature and humidity sensors and measured natural radioactivity levels with Geiger counters controlled by the computer. On the last day, students came to the UH Mānoa campus to take part in a tour of the Institute for Astronomy led by Director Günther Hasinger and also visited a physics class.

“The idea behind the program is that high school students are using smartphones as major resource for nearly all aspects of their lives,” said Doetinchem. “However, a deeper understanding of computers is shrinking while the usage of these devices is becoming easier. The program aims to increase the digital literacy level of high school students that resides in the interface of natural sciences and computer programming.”

The participating Nānākuli students reported that, at the end of the weeklong project, they had become extremely interested in technology and wanted to continue their study of science, Doetinchem said. The pilot project was supported by Doetinchem’s National Science Foundation CAREER award and co-sponsored by the UH Mānoa Office for Student Equity, Excellence and Diversity (SEED). He thanked SEED’s Maile Goo, Nicholas Childs, Paul Richards, Janis Dela Cruz and Nānākuli High Assistant Principal Corrina Luna for their support.