(ED NOTE: What role did the DoE play in this? Other than weakly resisting it, none.)
HONOLULU – It’s one part space camp, one part rock concert, one part prep football championship, and one part science class. Add in more than 600 innovative and energetic high school students from Hawai‘i and as far away as Mexico and the Philippines, and the results are sheer lunacy. This will be the scene as the 2009 NASA / BAE Systems FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition gets underway, March 26-28 at the University of Hawai‘i Stan Sheriff Center. The exciting event is free and open to the public.
The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition is comprised of annual regional competitions held in cities across the nation and around the world that help students discover the rewards and excitement of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). More than 42,000 high-school students on 1,686 teams from the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Turkey, and the U.K. are participating in this year’s competition.
Among them are 34 teams representing 24 Hawai‘i high schools from O‘ahu, Maui, Kaua‘i and the Big Island, eight teams from the mainland (California, Louisiana and Wisconsin) and two international teams from Mexico and the Philippines who will converge on the UH Mānoa campus to compete in what is called the “varsity sport of the mind.” The winning teams will advance to the FIRST Championships – called the “Super Bowl of Smarts” – in Atlanta, Georgia, April 15 -18.
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 game field “crater” will be covered with a slick, polymer material. Each remote-controlled robot carries a trailer and, in order to score, must put or throw “orbit balls,” designated as Moon Rocks, Empty Cells or Super Cells, into the opposing team’s trailer.
“Robotics is an outstanding tool to help our students learn valuable skills and gain practical experience that will help them in their education as well as their careers,” said Governor Lingle. “On a larger scale, robotics is nurturing the next generation of leaders who will use their innovation, academic knowledge and analytical skills to solve many of the issues facing our state and our nation.”
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.
The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common engineering problem. In January, the teams were given an overview of this year’s challenge and provided with a standard kit of parts that included motors, batteries, a control system, and a mix of automation components – but no instructions.
Over a six-week timeframe, working with mentors from their schools as well as engineers and other professionals, the students used their academic STEM skills, as well as innovation, ingenuity, teamwork and communication to design and build robots from the parts.
This is the second year Hawai‘i is hosting a regional competition. Hosting a regional locally has allowed the field of Hawai‘i teams participating in FIRST competitions to grow significantly. Last year, an unprecedented six high school teams from Hawai‘i – Honoka‘a, McKinley, Radford, Waiākea and Waialua high schools, as well as Sacred Hearts Academy – advanced to the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship in Atlanta. The team from Waialua High School (Hawaiian Kids) was presented with the second-highest award of the international competition – the FIRST Engineering Inspiration Award.
Hawai‘i Teams Compete in Mainland Regionals
In preparation for this year’s FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional, three Hawai‘i teams have also been competing this month in regionals on the Mainland.
- Baldwin High School competed in the Oregon Regional and placed 34 out of 54 – winning three of seven matches in the qualifying rounds;
- Waialua High School also competed at the Oregon Regional and placed 8th out of 54 and earned the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Entrepreneurship Award. Waialua also competed at the Silicon Valley Regional and placed 11th out of 47, and captured Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Enterprise Award;
- Sacred Hearts Academy competed in the Wisconsin Regional placing 52nd out of 53 teams.
More Hawai‘i Students Learning Through Robotics
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.
The Robotics Organizing Committee (ROC) serves as the foundation of support for the six pillars of robotics programming in the state of Hawai‘i. Providing support in areas of team and professional development, ROC seeks to provide a long-term sustainable future for these successful programs.
For additional information including a media kit, visit the FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition website at http://robotics.hawaii.gov.