Every summer at Honolulu Community College, students are hard at work, attending classes and working on projects, but they’re not in college. They’re high school students, getting a taste of college life, while being exposed to the world of engineering. They are taking part in the Honolulu CC Summer Engineering Academy.

“It’s not just class work and you actually get to apply what you learn to actual projects, which I think is pretty cool,” said participant Micah Fujita, a Mililani High School student.

There are 60 public and private school students in the six-week long program that consists of three projects—building a robot, constructing an air rocket and creating a rubber band powered car with a 3D printer. The students are divided into three groups and spend two weeks on each project.

“The robot they are building this year is really cool,” said the program director Norman Takeya, a Honolulu CCassistant professor in construction management. “It’s a drumming robot. The robot actually seeks an object to pound drum sticks on and it will create a tune.”

“I am looking forward to the robotics and one new thing is the 3D printing so hopefully that’s cool,” said participant Kristen Balanza, who just graduated from Campbell High School.

The projects expose the students to the different disciplines of engineering. Electrical for the drumming robot, structural and mechanical for the rocket and product engineering for the 3D printing.

“3D Printing is going to revolutionize manufacturing in the very near future,” said Takeya.

The academy gives these teenagers an opportunity to work with this revolutionary technology that most adults have only read about or never heard of.

“The projects that we do are fun and interesting, and it’s hands on so, that’s my kind of thing,” said Balanza.

“I thought it would be a good experience seeing that I am into building stuff and looking into engineering as a career choice,” said Fujita.

There are also field trips to places like the Pearl Harbor shipyard, guest speakers from a variety of engineering professions, and two parent nights where mom and dad learn about filling out college applications and financial aid forms.

“We try to cover the whole gamut of activities for everybody and try to make it worthwhile for the students and the parents,” said Takeya.

The engineering academy is one of three summer bridge programs for high school students at Honolulu Community College.

The best part of this one?

“You get to take home all your projects,” said Balanza.

The Summer Engineering Academy is also 1 of about 15 programs funded by the Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education on University of Hawaiʻi campuses. An effort to encourage high school students to pursue higher education and STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math.  The 3-D printer project was funded through Carl D. Perkins funds to promote career and technical education.