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Saturday, March 28, 2009
Four Hawaii robotics teams advance to world championships
By News Release @ 7:00 PM :: 7937 Views :: DHHL, Maui County, Energy

Robotics Competition Tests Students’ Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Skills

HONOLULU – They shot for the moon, and now four high school robotics teams from Hawai‘i – Maui, McKinley, Moanalua and Waialua High Schools – have earned a spot in the FIRST Robotics World Championship that will be held in Atlanta, Georgia next month. Maui High School is the first team from Maui to qualify for the FIRST World Championship.

For two action-packed days, more than 1,000 students representing 34 teams from Hawai‘i, the U.S. mainland, Mexico and the Philippines were locked in an intense, but friendly robotics competition at the Stan Sheriff Center on U.H. Mānoa Campus.  The 2009 NASA/BAE Systems FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition tested students’ ingenuity, critical thinking skills and knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – as they maneuvered remote-controlled robots they built around a playing field while performing various mechanical skills.

The three-team alliance – McKinley, Maui and Moanalua High Schools – won the FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition.  Waialua High School won the Regional Chairman’s Award.  All four Hawai‘i teams have qualified to advance to the World Championship. 

Also advancing to the World Championship will be SIA Tech (San Jose, Calif.) which won the Engineering Inspiration Award, and Philippine Science High School (Quezon City, Philippines) which won the Rookie All-Star Award.

“There’s no governor in the country who could be prouder of their students,” Governor Linda Lingle said during the final awards ceremony.  “You competed with gracious professionalism and character, and it makes me very optimistic about the future.”

In today’s final round, the three-team Blue alliance (Maui, McKinley and Moanalua High Schools) edged out the three-team Red alliance (Farrington High School, Punahou School and Prospect High School from California) to capture the FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Competition title.  The Blue alliance won the first round and needed to win the second round to capture the title.  But a double penalty in round two resulted in a tie-breaker.  After a close battle in round three, the Blue team emerged as the winner.

“I had the opportunity to hear from a Microsoft executive that to elevate the American workforce, in 2014, 70 percent of the workforce will need some type of analytical and technical expertise,” Lt. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr. told the students in the closing ceremony.  “What you got out of FIRST is the whole package to compete in the 21st Century – leadership, teamwork, as well as technical and character development skills.”

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.

This year’s FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional competition featured 34 teams, including 24 Hawai‘i teams representing high schools on the Big Island, Kaua‘i, Maui and O‘ahu; eight mainland teams from California, Louisiana and Wisconsin; and two international teams from Mexico and the Philippines. In total, more than 1,000 students participated. This is the second year Hawai‘i has hosted the FIRST robotics competition.

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 as well as the Governor’s web site at

To download photos, visit

2009 NASA/BAE Systems FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition Awards

Regional Chairman’s Award – Waialua High School
Engineering Inspiration Award – SIA Tech (San Jose, Calif.)
General Motors Industrial Design Award – McKinley High School
Motorola Quality Award – Waialua High School
Johnson & Johnson Gracious Professionalism Award – Farrington High School
Daimler Chrysler Team Spirit Award – Chaminade College Preparatory (West Hills, Calif.)
Judges Award – Moanalua High School
Rookie Inspiration Award – Kalani High School
Highest Rookie Seed Award – Philippine Science High School (Quezon City, Philippines)
Rookie All Star Award – Philippine Science High School (Quezon City, Philippines)
Underwriters Laboratories Industrial Safety Award –Waialua High School
Autodesk Visualization Award – Colegio Almos High School, Queretaro, Mexico
Imagery Award – Colegio Almos High School, Queretaro, Mexico
Rockwell Automation Innovation in Control Award – Gunn High School, Palo Alto, Calif.
Xerox Creativity Award – Kohala High School
Delphi Driving Tomorrow’s Technology Award – ‘Iolani School
Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers Entrepreneurship Award – Sacred Hearts Academy
Judges Award – Kaua‘i Island High School (Kaua‘iBots)
Website Award – Waialua High School
Regional Woodie Flowers Award (mentor of the year) – Aaron Dengler, Punahou School
Outstanding Volunteer Award – Osa Tui, McKinley High School



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