Editor’s note: We contacted Dr. Padasdao and asked him to tell us about himself and his interest in helping students transition from Leeward Community College to UH Mānoa. Dr. Olga in his article is Olga Boric-Lubecke, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Dr. Padasdao’s advisor when he earned his PhD.
I took most of my freshman and sophomore engineering courses at Leeward CC, and then transferred to Mānoa for my BS and PhD. I actually lectured for EE 211 at Leeward during the last semester of my PhD (Fall 2013). The position for Engineering Instructor there was advertised that same semester, so I applied, got interviewed, and got the position, which started in Spring 2014. The title is officially Instructor, Engineering, although I do teach PHYS courses as well.
The tenure-track faculty aren’t technically required to do research at the community colleges, as they are at the university. However, I enjoyed the research I was doing, and didn’t want to let it fall by the wayside. Starting from Fall 2014, I’ve advised 22 of Dr. Olga’s EE 296, 396, and 496 students. Thirteen of those students are former Leeward students, and 7 of those 13 students have done all three X96 courses under Dr. Olga. At Leeward CC, I’ve basically recreated my lab with the same equipment as Mānoa, so students can do their research at Leeward CC if it’s more convenient for them. Every couple of weeks, they’ll present their research updates with me and Dr. Olga at Mānoa.
Dr. Olga and I applied for a couple of small grants in Fall 2014 and Fall 2015. Both were part of the CoE Student Project Grant Program, which funded projects that helped pre-engineering and community college students enter the CoE. With the funding, we purchased some equipment and provided stipends for any of my transferring Leeward CC students that took EE 296 under Dr. Olga. Seven of my students participated, and they were able to present posters of their research at the CoE banquet.
Since then, I’ve done whatever I could to provide research opportunities for our Leeward students to help ease their transition into the CoE. I’ve started offering EE 296 at Leeward CC. I participated in an undergraduate summer bridge program in 2015, where I advised 5 students for various research projects. I’m also a co-PI for the Pre-Engineering Education Collaborative II (PEEC-II) grant, which funds students to take a calculus course and a directed research course over the summer.
Advising at Leeward isn’t mandatory from semester to semester. When students enroll at Leeward, they do take a placement test, and if they declare engineering as their major, they’ll pursue an AS in Natural Sciences in pre-engineering. This is essentially the first two years of the BS at Mānoa, so they’re set up to transfer seamlessly at the beginning of their junior year. Some of my students do ask me about the courses at Mānoa, and I’ll let them know which classes are prerequisites for other classes, the differences in the engineering tracks, what courses are usually only offered once a year, etc., so they can plan their schedule accordingly. At the beginning of each semester, I’ll take a quick poll of my classes just to see which students are EEs, MEs, CEEs, and Computer Engineering students. I usually get to know the EE and Computer Engineering students better, since they end up taking EE 211, EE 213, EE 260, and PHYS 274 with me.
Since I started teaching at Leeward, I think there are a little over 30 Leeward students who have done research with me and gone on to transfer to Mānoa. I know a handful of them have entered graduate school to pursue their MS and PhD, and a few others have graduated and are working at Pearl Harbor.
Whether they do research with me or not, I tell all my students about how difficult the junior and senior-level engineering courses are. Transferring to Mānoa can be a culture shock for a community college student, and I try to prepare my students to handle that adversity. I tell them stories from my own experience, and give them advice on how to succeed. I do see my former students at Mānoa from time to time. It’s surprising to see how much they’ve grown and matured in just a couple years from their time at Leeward. They thank me for challenging them and preparing them for UH, but they do miss the more intimate classroom settings at Leeward.