Waimea High School ready for more robotics

Young Bros. awards $2,000 grant for next competition

Dennis Fujimoto – The Garden Island

WAIMEA — The students and mentors at Waimea High School have the next robotics competition on their minds and recently received some financial help to make it possible.

Honoring the success of the Waimea High School 2007-08 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics team, the Young Bros. Community Advisory Board awarded a grant to the 2008-09 Menehune team for its second year of participation in the program.

Waimea High School was the first and only public high school on Kaua‘i to enter the international FIRST Robotics competition this year. Island School, a private school on Kaua‘i, also entered a team.

The Menehune team and its robot made a respectable showing for its first time in the state competition, which was held in March on O‘ahu. Sixteen Menehune students, four WHS teachers and mentors from Pacific Missile Range Facility, Oceanit and Pioneer Hi-Bred participated in the inaugural competition.

“The 2008-09 WHS FIRST Robotics team is ready to make significant improvements to the robot this year,” said Mary Lu Kelley of Oceanit. “Though the games for 2009 will not be announced until early January 2009, the team wants to use the expertise of the engineering mentors from Oceanit, Pioneer and PMRF to build a pneumatic arm for ball-handling this year.”

The Young Bros. Community Advisory Board awarded the Menehune Robotics team a $2,000 grant to help them participate in the 2009 FIRST Hawai‘i Regional competition, which will be held in Honolulu in the spring of 2009, Kelley said in a press release from Oceanit.

The mission of FIRST Robotics is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership, states the Web site for the FIRST program.

The FIRST Robotics competition stages short games played by remote-controlled robots. The robots are designed and built in six weeks by a team of 10 to 20 high school students and engineer mentors from partnering organizations in the community.

During the competition, which drew a lot of attention at its inaugural Hawai‘i showing, the students pilot the robots on the field.

In 2008, more than 1,300 high schools from around the world took part in the in the FIRST Robotics program, including 18 high schools from Hawai‘i.

Working alongside Stu Burley, Waimea High School students are no strangers to the field of robotics as they previously worked to construct several remotely operated vehicles, one of its underwater versions placing well in another state competition.

Under Burley’s guidance, the students have made numerous community appearances to spread the awareness of robotics as well as demonstrate how robotics helps them with everyday learning at school.

Most recently, a team of Menehune robotics students was at the Family Ocean Fair with two of its underwater ROV to share with younger students and their parents this hands-on approach to robotics.

During an earlier appearance at the Celebration of Learning event where the Menehune ROV were also on display, Kelley said with the current curriculum availability of robotics in the state, she envisions a program that starts at the elementary school level and extends through high school.

The Hawai‘i regional competition was inspired by FIRST founder Dean Kamen.

For more information, visit www.usfirst.org.

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