Nanakuli High students build, work with computers during pilot program led by Physics faculty member

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
James T. Hall, (808) 956-3850
College of Natural Sciences
Philip von Doetinchem
Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy
Posted: Jul 14, 2016

Philip von Doetinchem (middle back) and Nanakuli High students at UH Manoa.
Philip von Doetinchem (middle back) and Nanakuli High students at UH Manoa.
Nanakuli High students assemble Raspberry Pi computers.
Nanakuli High students assemble Raspberry Pi computers.

Thanks to Physics Assistant Professor Philip von Doetinchem, students at Nanakuli High spent a memorable, informative week this summer building and working with computers. From June 13-17, Doetinchem launched the outreach program known as “HIGGS," which stands for "HIgh school students in proGramminG and Sciences.”

The pilot project was supported by Doetinchem's National Science Foundation CAREER award and co-sponsored by the UH Mānoa Office for Student Equity, Excellence & Diversity (SEED). 

“The idea behind the program is that high school students are using smartphones as major resource for nearly all aspects of their lives. However, a deeper understanding of computers is shrinking while the usage of these devices is becoming easier," said Doetinchem.  "The program aims to increase the digital literacy level of high school students that resides in the interface of natural sciences and computer programming.” 

During the pilot run, Doetinchem mentored the students at the Nanakuli High campus, where they learned how to use highly versatile and affordable Raspberry Pi computers. Starting from the bare computer CPU board, students built up a system with multiple sensors and devices, and wrote the corresponding computer code to control them.

In an entirely hands-on approach, they worked with cameras, read out temperature and humidity sensors, and measured natural radioactivity levels with Geiger counters controlled by the computer. On the last day, students came to the UH Mānoa campus to take part in a tour of the Institute for Astronomy led by Director Dr. Guenther Hasinger, and also visited a Physics class.

The participating Nanakuli High students reported that, at the end of the weeklong project, they had become extremely interested in technology and wanted to continue their study of science, Doetinchem said. He thanked SEED's Dr. Maile Goo, Nicholas Childs, Paul Richards and Janis Dela Cruz, and Nanakuli High Assistant Principal Corrina Luna for their support.

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