Innovation Station makes STEM education accessible for O‘ahu public schools

23-Feb-2024

The Innovation Station is a portable classroom equipped with 3D printers and laser printers designed to deploy to different campuses to make STEM education more accessible to schools.

A portable classroom aimed at making STEM education more accessible for students and teachers is making its way across O‘ahu public schools.

It’s a bright red shipping container, dubbed the “Innovation Station,” and it’s equipped with 3D printers, laser printers, power tools, and STEM lessons that focus on physics, geology and circuitry.

“We loved the idea of making it portable because we can drop it in any school,” said Kalani High School robotics teacher Bryan Silver, who helped lead the project’s development. “It’s getting more access to this technology out to our schools. It’s great that one school has one suite of really cool tech but it doesn’t give the opportunity for other teachers to put it in their classrooms and how they can use it.”

The Innovation Station was designed to deploy to different campuses. Last March, Kalani High School robotics students helped to create the lab. They spent countless hours building out the counters and shelving units and installed all of the equipment. The station spent the last semester at Kāhala Elementary — one of Kalani’s feeder elementary schools — and is now at Keolu Elementary on the Windward side, where it will stay for the remainder of the school year. 

“It’s a neutral space. You don’t have to worry about disturbing someone else’s classroom. Any (teacher) can use it,” Silver said.

The 9-foot-by-40-foot container houses 12 3D printers, three laser printers, a variety of power tools and STEM equipment, which are all powered by three 8-hour solar batteries. Silver said he plans to add in six more 3D printers. The project was funded through state and school funds.

Kāhala Elementary School was the first school to host the station. “It really opened my eyes to what we can do and how we can integrate these new technologies into today’s education,” said third-grade teacher Michael Klingberg. 

For a lesson on composting, Klingberg’s students used the 3D printers to create models of bacteria, roaches, and worms to illustrate the decomposers. He said they also used the 3D printers to build models of buildings to learn about the U.S. Supreme Court and the various branches of government. They used the laser printer to make holiday ornaments.

“The kids were really blown away with the fact that they can come up with an idea, send it to a computer and then print it out of plastic,” said Klingberg, who added that he was using the Innovation Station every week when it first came to campus and was even going in on the weekends to use it. 

The experience inspired Kāhala Elementary to invest in their own equipment. The school bought three 3D printers, which are in the process of being set up. Through DonorsChoose, the school received a fourth 3D printer and accessories. Laser equipment will be ordered in the near future, said Cynthia Beppu, Kāhala Elementary’s student services coordinator.

The effort aligns with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education’s goal to prepare all students for challenges and opportunities in the global economy by providing rigorous, equitable and accessible education in STEM.

The Innovation Station is run by Kalani High’s Team Magma Robotics, which hosts training sessions for staff of the receiving school on how to use the tools in the lab and assists in incorporating the technology into their classrooms.

“Future generations can explore their interest in STEM,” said Kalani sophomore Sydnie Melemai. As program manager of the station, she organizes the student teachers and lesson plans for each of the training sessions. “The Innovation Station allows (students) to broaden their horizons to different types of STEM.”

Melemai organized a day-long training session at Keolu Elementary in February, where she and three other classmates, along with Silver, taught faculty members how to use all of the equipment.

“You can see how the kids are going to love it,” said Keolu Elementary fifth-grade teacher Sanford Kojiro, who was among the two dozen staff members who attended the training. “One of the science grades is technology and engineering, so it fits perfectly into my teaching.”

It hasn’t been determined yet where the Innovation Station will go after its stint at Keolu Elementary, but interested schools may contact Kalani High principal Mitchell Otani.


 


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