Students attending Hawai‘i Community College’s Summer STEM Camp learned to use a spectrophotometer and graphed their results on June 17, 2015 as part of a photosynthesis experiment.

HILO – Hawai‘i Community College (Hawai‘i CC) is hosting a brand-new Summer STEM Camp June 15-26 in an effort to interest middle school students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of college graduates in Hawai‘i with expertise in STEM fields.

Students have been engaged in hands-on experiences at the college campus and in the community as they learn about biology and astronomy.

“One of the strategic directions for the University of Hawai‘i is to increase the number of STEM graduates,” said Christopher Manaseri, the Dean of Liberal Arts and Public Services at Hawai‘i CC. “This is in anticipation of career opportunities related to technical fields as our society matures into the 21st century. One of the goals of the STEM Camp is to encourage students at a critical juncture in their education so that if they are interested in STEM careers and fields of study, they can be well-prepared for the math and other skills they will need when they get to college.”

STEM Camp is part of a broader effort at Hawai‘i CC called the STEM Enhancement Initiative that began during the 2014-2015 academic year. A committee has been meeting monthly since last October to explore ways the college can strengthen its STEM programs. During its research, the group recognized a need for better outreach, and that’s the reason for the STEM Camp.

“Hawai‘i in particular has a need to grow its own graduates to fill positions that may require STEM skill sets instead of being reliant on importing STEM workers from the mainland,” said Manaseri.

To create the STEM Camp, Hawai‘i CC partnered with the Hawai‘i P-20 Partnerships for Education (P-20) and the Hawai‘i State Department of Education’s STEM Coordinator for the Hilo-Waikea Complex.

P-20 is a statewide collaboration led by the Executive Office on Early Learning, Hawai‘i Department of Education and the University of Hawai‘i System with the goal of improving educational outcomes for Hawai‘i. Hawai‘i P-20 works to strengthen the education pipeline from early childhood through higher education to achieve college and career success for all Hawai‘i’s students.

A P-20 College Access Challenge Grant (CACG) Program has funded the Summer STEM Camp. The federal grant program that is managed by P-20 is designed to increase the number of low-income and underrepresented students entering postsecondary education.

“We are excited to provide students with this unique summer learning opportunity,” says Karen Lee, Executive Director, Hawai‘i P-20. “Our hope is that students will acquire the knowledge and skills that will engage their interest in STEM-related careers and, more importantly, start raising their awareness about the importance of higher education.”