HONOLULU – Four Hawai‘i high school robotics teams – Maui, McKinley, Moanalua and Waialua High Schools – showcased their academic and innovation skills at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Atlanta, Georgia this weekend.
Before a boisterous crowd of approximately 20,000 in the Georgia Dome, the four Hawai‘i teams got down to business at the “Super Bowl off Smarts,” which started yesterday and wrapped up today. They competed with close to 350 other teams from Brazil, Canada, Israel, Mexico, the Philippines and the U.S. mainland. The competition challenged the students to use their critical thinking skills and knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to maneuver robots they built themselves around a playing field.
Waialua Intermediate and High School (Hawaiian Kids) earned special recognition and is bringing home a Judge’s Award. The team finished 41st out of 86 teams in its division. This was and the sixth championship appearance for Waialua High and Intermediate School.
McKinley High School (Team Kika Mana) advanced to the semifinals in its division, and finished 23rd out of 88 teams. It was McKinley’s fourth appearance at the World Championship.
Maui High School (Maui High FIRSTTeam) finished 18th out of 87 teams in its division. This was the first appearance for the team and the first team from Maui to qualify for the championship.
Moanalua High School (Cool Geeks), which also made its debut in the World Championship, finished 72nd out of 86 teams in its division.
The four teams advanced to the World Championship after qualifying during the 2009 NASA/BAE Systems FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition held last month at the Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa campus.
The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition helps students discover the rewards and excitement of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The students were given a common engineering problem to solve using a standard kit of parts and a common set of rules – but no instructions. Working with mentors, they had six weeks to build a robot, using their minds, their innovation and a lot of teamwork.
This year’s challenge, “Lunacy,” celebrates the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic mission to the moon. It features red and blue alliances, consisting of three teams that compete to outscore each other in a two-minute and 15-second match. To simulate driving in the one-sixth gravity on the surface of the moon, the students maneuvered their robots on a game field “crater” that was covered with a slick, polymer material. Each remote-controlled robot carried a trailer and, in order to score, threw “orbit balls,” designated as Moon Rocks, Empty Cells or Super Cells, into the opposing team’s trailer.
FIRST Robotics is one of six robotics programs active in Hawai‘i’s public, private and charter schools, at the elementary through high school levels. The other five programs include: Botball, FIRST LEGO League, VEX, Underwater ROV and Micro Robotics. Each program is designed to engage students of a particular age and interest.
Participation by Hawai‘i students of all ages has grown tremendously in the past two years. In late 2007, Hawai‘i schools were host to only 95 teams in some form of robotics programming. Today, there are more than 300 programs thriving in Hawai‘i’s elementary, middle and high schools.
Robotics is a critical component of the Lingle-Aiona Administration’s Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative because it engages students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The competition also fosters students’ teamwork, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that will better prepare them to enter the work force, regardless of what career they choose.
For more information on the FIRST in Hawai‘i Robotics Competition, as well as other student robotics programs in Hawai‘i, visit www.robotics.hawaii.govas well as the Governor’s web site at www.hawaii.gov/gov.