Project Profile

Examining the Impact of an Industry-aligned, STEM Problem Based Learning Curriculum on Native Hawaiian and Underrepresented Youth Workforce Development


Project STEMulate will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by developing and testing an innovative approach for promoting STEM competency, interest, persistence, preparation and entry into the STEM workforce among Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented, low-income, first generation high school students. Building on a successful postsecondary model, this project will adapt the model for implementation at the secondary level. The model will be redesigned to align with standards and incorporate age appropriate problem-based learning pedagogy and practices. A robust workforce development component will be added, extending the summer program into the academic year with student industry internships. Three field advancing research questions, with sub-questions, will be explored. Of notable significance is the deep convergence of Hawaiian culture and STEM learning with real world industry-aligned problem solving and workforce development opportunities across three Hawaiian Islands. Few, if any, ITEST projects have examined the profound potential impact such convergence could have on these specific target populations. Thus, the proposed work will add to the literature while also directly impacting hundreds of secondary students and teachers, postsecondary students, and others. Project partners such as the Institute for Astronomy, Hawaii EPSCoR Ike Wai, Pacific Disaster Center, Hui O Waa Kaulua, and Upward Bound will bring significant capacity, expertise, and resources to all phases of the work.

Over a three-year period, approximately 225 high school students enrolled in Upward Bound and Upward Board Math and Science summer programs at the University of Hawaii Maui College, University of Hawaii Hilo, and Windward Community College will participate in Project STEMulate (75 students/site). The summer program will employ a flipped classroom approach, with much of the industry-aligned, STEM problem solving and hands on work being conducted as a group, during summer classroom sessions led by STEM instructors and undergraduate students. Content review and pre/post classroom session learning will occur via recorded videos and other materials during unstructured summer study hall periods. During the academic year, twenty-five of the summer participants will be selected to participate in student industry internships with local and project partners. Using a quasi-experimental, pre-post research design matching target youth with youth in two comparison groups, students will engage in various aspects of the project depending on which group they are assigned. The three research questions the project will explore include: (1) How does using technology-rich STEM problem-based learning (PBL) affect low-income and Native Hawaiian students' interest in STEM careers? (2) Does the extension of a technology-rich PBL approach in an internship increase students' interest, motivation, and skill to enter the STEM workforce? And (3) Are there additive benefits from multiple summers of exposure? Does one summer alone produce efficient results? Data sources will include: (1) pre and post-surveys, (2) team collaboration surveys, (3) interviews, and (4) student final products. Formative and summative evaluations will be conducted by an experienced external evaluator. The project will disseminate data, curricula, and training materials broadly to local high school staff, its local and project partners, and through the Council for Opportunities in Education webinars offered to summer-program educators serving over 70,000 low-income students nationwide.


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Co-Principal Investigator(s)
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Award Number
Project Duration
2017 - 2021
University of Hawaii, HI
Project Work State
Target Gradespan(s)
High school (9-12)
Project Setting(s)
Informal Education
Geographic Location(s)
Project Status
Additional Disciplines
Engineering - general
Additional Target Participants
STEM Professionals
Students eligible for Free/reduced price lunch
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander