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people gathering around a small pool with a raft
Students participated in a challenge called “Rapid dRafting,” where they created a raft made of recycled materials to meet the specified dimensions and pass a load, drop, accuracy, and aesthetic test.

Approximately 300 Oʻahu middle school students put their creativity and problem-solving skills to the test in an engineering showdown, hosted by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering, March 8.

The students participated in a series of activities, including brushbot relays, circuit puzzles, egg drop, popsicle stick bridges, aircraft challenge and more.

people measuring the load capability of a popsicle bridge
Popsicle stick bridge building competition

“This event is one of our signature events where we can get right in there with middle school students who are just figuring out their passion and interests,” UH Mānoa College of Engineering Dean Brennon Morioka said. “While they may not understand all the concepts or equations that go into these challenges, they are using their critical thinking, their curiosity, and their innovation to just figure it out. These are the kinds of hands-on experience that could potentially make a difference in the decisions on what they want to do or what they want to be when they grow up. Hopefully that includes coming to UH and getting an engineering degree.”

The annual Middle School Engineering Showdown serves as a platform to nurture young minds, encourage their interest in STEM fields, and lay the foundation for future academic and professional success in engineering and related disciplines. This aligns with the college’s dedication to produce the entrepreneurial and innovative human and intellectual capital required to be competitive in an increasingly technological and global society.

people at tables working on puzzles
Students participate in circuit puzzles

UH Mānoa engineering clubs and honor societies hosted the games and served as mentors to inspire the next generation.

“The main things I think we all hope that they take away from the middle school showdown is just the engineering mindset, being problem solving, critical thinking and most importantly just working in a team, because when you go into the workforce it’s very team oriented and you’re always solving the world’s problem as engineers,” said Joy Maehara, a UH Mānoa junior majoring in electrical engineering.

Lucas Wong, a 7th grade student at Prince David Kawananakoa Middle School, and his three classmates were successful in designing a device to protect a raw egg from cracking after being dropped from a high floor. He said he is strongly considering attending UH Mānoa after his experience in the middle school showdown.

“When we were building the egg drop contraption, it was really fun but really stressful at the same time,” Wong said.

For more information, visit the UH Mānoa College of Engineering website.

The Engineering Student Ambassadors managed the showdown event. To support the ambassadors program, visit this UH Foundation link.

By Marc Arakaki

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