Menehune add flair to robotics competition

There was pink insulation, pink trim and the shirts were a fluorescent lime-green color.

“Originally, it was supposed to be black,” said Stu Burley, adviser to the Waimea High School Remotely Operated Vehicle team. “There are four boys and one girl in the club and she wanted pink.”

Without getting into details of how the boys were outvoted by the lone female Crystal Whitehill, Burley said the pink ROV ended up earning the Menehune team a second runner up award at the 3rd MATE/Big Island Regional ROV 2008 Tournament held in late April.

The Waimea High team, one of a dozen exhibitors at the Fifth Annual Adopt a School Learning Celebration Friday, accumulated the third most points in the competition.

The points were based on a technical report, poster board, engineering evaluation and presentation and the ROV Underwater Mission based on the theme “Diving the Deep: Discovering the Mysteries of Mid-Ocean Ridges.”

Burley said the student team of Whitehill, Mana Shigematsu, Camden Nakashima, Brycen Nakashima and Kellen Nadatani created an ROV using primarily PVC pipe.

It was equipped with two cameras to help navigate the vehicle as well as functional tools required to accomplish three tasks at the competition.

“Akala,” which means pink in Hawaiian, was revised after it was built for the 2007 Hawai‘i Underwater Robot Challenge which was canceled.

The student team reformatted the ROV to meet the 3rd MATE competition which involved the locating and retrieval of “crabs” constructed out of PVC pipe end caps, screws and pipe cleaners.

The second mission involved retrieving samples of rocks attached by Velcro to a 3-inch pipe column, and the third mission involved getting a probe inside a geothermal vent while measuring the temperature.

“Akala’s” tools to accomplish the mission tasks involved a strong magnet attached to the front of the ROV, attracting the screws or pipe cleaners of the PVC crabs. A simple aquarium fish net joined the magnet to scrape the samples off the column, and a probe with the aid of one of the two cameras enabled the team to probe the vent and read the temperature.

The Waimea High School ROV club emerged in the fall of 2006 with the help of teacher Laura Mission who led a dozen students to build the first-ever ROV on Kaua‘i.

That vehicle competed in the Big Island ROV Regional Competition in 2007 and won top honors for its engineering.

Following the competition, the Menehune ROV was a great tool for creating awareness in the public as it made numerous appearances at various functions.

On the cusp of its second competition, the project had to be put on hold when the competition was canceled and the Menehune became involved in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology robotics which was highlighted by the first state regional held late in March at the Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawai‘i campus where the Menehune were joined by a team from Island School.

With the 3rd MATE competition on the horizon, the ROV club was reconvened on April 1 for the April 26 competition, and according to information on the “Akala” poster board, ROV will continue to be a part of Waimea High School during the 2008-2009 school year.

The poster board notes that of the dozen original Waimea High School students involved in building the first ROV, all are currently in college on scholarships.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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