Robotic Expo shows off student talent

It was gadgets and gizmos galore yesterday during the Robotic Expo at Kukui Grove.

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle, Island School, Kapa‘a Middle, Kula Intermediate, Waimea Canyon Middle and Waimea High showcased their creations and answered questions from the curious.

“It’s a way to let the public know we have robotics on this island,” said Mia Ako, director of education and workforce development for Kaua‘i Economic Development Board, an event sponsor. “We want to get more of these exciting things on the island.”

Now that the school year is over and all robotic competitions are finished, Ako said it was decided to hold an expo to showcase the schools that have competed.

“Maybe next year we will have a competition,” she said.

Some of the Chiefess team’s students have just completed their first year in the robotics program and are already looking forward to the next.

“We will be in advanced robotics next year,” said Justin Doi, who will be in the 7th grade at Chiefess in the fall.

Last winter, the students competed in their first contest at McKinley High School in Honolulu with other schools from around the state.

“We placed 38th out of 64, and we even beat Punahou,” Doi said with a smile. “I thought we would have placed 50th.”

As part of the competition, Chiefess students had to give a PowerPoint presentation about something that could be saved for the future, Doi said. The students chose to save the electricity in the cafeteria.

They also had to build a computer-programmed robot with a Lego kit. Once built, the robot went through a sort of obstacle course while being timed.

And for the first-time competitors, it all happened in front of a large crowd.

“I wasn’t too intimidated,” Doi said. “I would have (been) if the robot had failed or exploded.”

Linda Okayama, mother of soon-to-be seventh-grader Jared Okayama, said it was a good experience for them to participate in the competition.

“I was amazed to see what they could do for them to have no idea what they were getting into,” she said.

Okayama works for Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, which provided team T-shirts for the students.

While still in middle school, the robotics students are already looking apply what they have learned in the program to their future.

“I’m pretty good with PowerPoint,” Doi said. “I should be a Web site builder.”

Teammate Leighton Villanueva said because he has designed, built and programmed robots, he would also like to pursue Web site design.

Jared Okayama said he would rather be a soccer player, but in case that doesn’t work out, he’ll would like to go into the building field.

“I always wanted to do something with computers,” Zachary Silva, who will be in the eighth grade in the fall at Chiefess, said. “I like programming the robots, but I’m not really good at building them.”

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