AFCEA International Chapter News

Education Program Evolves To Meet Community STEM Needs

The chapter's STEM Grant Program for teachers and community organizations has awarded 71 STEM grants to $128,000 in just three years. The chapter's Education Committee continues the STEM Scholarship Program efforts that the AFCEA Hawaii Education Foundation managed until it was disestablished. The Education Committee developed a grants program for K-12 STEM teachers and community organizations such as ISC2, Girl Scouts of Hawaii and the Boys & Girls Club. This year, the chapter had the honor of receiving invitations to witness the impact of the grants on schools and the community.

In March, chapter board members were invited to Assets High School, Honolulu, for its robotics showcase with Team Waffles and Team Metal Engineering Assets Flamingos. The robotics demonstration was attended by ReShonda McKee, chapter vice president of education programs; Vincent DiRienzo, chapter vice president of cyber programs; and Yogi Fong, chapter secretary. Assets High received two grant awards from the chapter in school year (SY) 2020-2021 and 2022-2023. Team Waffles' awards this year included the Hawaii State Champions in FIRST Tech Challenge, 2023 Hawaii Regional Rookie Inspiration Award, Highest Rookie Seed and finalist in the FIRST Robotics Competition. In April, Team Waffles represented Hawaii at the FIRST World Championship in Houston, Texas.

In April, board member Linda Newton joined McKee and Fong in a community visit to Jefferson Elementary School in Waikiki at the invitation of kindergarten teacher Jessica Barbera. Barbera is no stranger to the chapter; she is a two-time grant recipient for SY 2020-2021 and 2022-2023. The most recent grant was an Integrated STEM Showcase. The STEM Showcase is an inquiry-based, student-directed learning presentation where students can explore their passions for learning STEM. This presentation allowed students in all classrooms ranging from pre-kindergarten special education to 5th grade to learn problem-solving, creative and analytical thinking skills early. This latest showcase included Pre-K Lemon Volcanoes, highways designed and cars built by kindergarteners, and Grade 5's Pigeon Chaser project to design and create bird-repellent systems to solve bird and pigeon problems around the school's campus. Most interesting in Grade 4's Blast Off of Rockets was the complete program management process the students used to design, build, test, refine and launch their rockets, all while managing their budget and materials and building storyboards to explain and showcase their processes with first and nth-iteration models of their rockets. Jefferson's principal, Garret Zakahi, commented that Barbera's innovative and successful efforts to integrate STEM throughout the school resulted in her appointment as the K-2's curriculum specialist, where she will continue integrating creative problem- solving and analytical thinking skills.

Through scholarships, grants, sponsorships, and partnerships, the chapter's Education Committee continues to evolve to meet the chapter's vision of community outreach and contributing to growing students' passion for STEM topics and exploring STEM-related fields in Hawaii. Chapter members wait with bated breath to find out who the SY 2023-2024 STEM Grant recipients will be!

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