A collaboration between the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy (CoP) should result in more students understanding engineering concepts and possibly choosing careers that will help build a better Hawaii.
The program will be funded through the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center on Structured Organic Particulate Systems (NSF-ERC-SOPS), with UH Hilo as an outreach partner.
As a first step, CoP Dean John Pezzuto greeted 26 principals and administrators from the Hilo-Laupahoehoe-Waiakea Complex at the College of Pharmacy classroom on UH Hilo campus for a leadership session Aug. 12.
Ken Morris, professor of pharmaceutical sciences, presented them with a plan for workshops to help their teachers by providing tools they need to inspire students to look into engineering careers. If successful, the plan is to offer the workshop to all Big Island school complexes.
“Engineering represents a huge opportunity to address many issues on the Big Island from energy generation to the observatories, to roads and bridges,” Morris said.
“K-12 students could benefit from more exposure to these concepts so they can get excited about careers in these important developmental fields,” he said. “Teachers who teach science, technology, engineering and math, also known as the STEM disciplines, are key to communicating that excitement.”
Under the leadership of Complex Area Superintendent Valerie Takata, schools will be invited to nominate one or two STEM faculty members for a one-week STEM Training workshop to be offered on campus in December and January.
The course will combine classroom instruction with hands-on laboratory exercises that focus on understanding engineering concepts and methods.
“I am confident that our educators will want to take advantage of this exciting chance to learn about an area that has the potential to strengthen the Hilo community,” Takata said. “Partnerships are key, and I’m so impressed with everything the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy has done in such a short time.”
A key partner that is connecting CoP with local school administrators is the Hawaii “Journey through the Universe” project at the Gemini Observatory.
Janice Harvey, community outreach and education programs leader, is advising and linking the CoP-driven effort with her network after eight years of collaborative projects with the school system.
“We are very proud of the ‘Journey through the Universe’ project, which is one of only 10 in the nation and completely self sustaining,” Harvey said. “That’s what makes working with the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy exciting. We’re all working to help Hilo recharge. We know our success is based on STEM education. It’s all about the kids.”
Morris, who is a highly published researcher in pharmaceutical materials science, process modeling and control, and dosage form design, will be the instructor.
Anthony Wright, chair of the Ph.D. program for CoP and a highly published scientist in marine pharmaceutical natural products, also will be involved.
In addition, Raj Dave, distinguished professor of engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), will be both an instructor and advisor for the College on the engineering-specific content of the workshop.
Professor Henrik Pedersen, the ERC-SOPS education and outreach director from Rutgers University, will be the ERC assessment lead and UH Hilo Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and Outreach Dan Brown will be the coordinator for the project at UH Hilo.