Students working at the Summer Engineering Academy

Imagine being trapped on Mars with only scant materials available to figure out a way home. For 44 high school students, including two from American Samoa, this was a scenario they had to figure out during the 6-week Summer Engineering Academy at Honolulu Community College in July.

The Summer Engineering Academy is designed to engage high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Students learned the basics of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer programming, including electronics, prototyping and writing code. In addition, they were introduced to college study skills, learned about the college admissions and financial aid process, and gained advanced math and science skills.

Throughout the summer experience, students met with project engineers during a field trip to the HART Waipahu Transit Center, and heard from organizations such as the Board of Water Supply, Bowers and Kubota, Community Planning and Engineering, Inc., and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Architecture.

“The summer engineering program was designed to help the students choose a career path in a engineering discipline they enjoy,” said Assistant Professor Norman Takeya, coordinator of the Summer Engineering Academy. “With practical, hands-on experiences, students get a first-hand taste of the type of work involved in various engineering careers.”

Summer Engineering Academy supporters

This is the fourth year Honolulu CC has offered this program that was initially funded by Hawaiʻi P-20. This year funding came from Representative Mark Nakashima’s Work Force Development Advisory Committee on STEM in partnership with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR). Additional funding came from the Fujio Matsuda Technology fund.

“We are so pleased to partner with Honolulu Community College in giving high school students a hands-on, practical way to gain engineering and computer programming skills,” says DLIR Director Linda Chu Takayama. “The problem-solving approach used in this project can be applied to any job because it fosters hard work, initiative and teamwork, which are valued by all employers. This project also helps students define their educational and career goals, which make a smoother transition from school to work.”

—By Billie Lueder

Summer Engineering Academy students