School robotics team ready for major competitions

PUHI — Not many students would be anywhere near their high school campus on a teacher’s work day, but there aren’t many kids as dedicated to putting in hard work like the Kauaibots Robotics team on Friday.

“(These students) are outstanding,” said James Massaro, retired teacher and leader of the robotics team. “This is the best group of students that we’ve ever had. They designed it, they built it.”

From stripping last year’s robot to recycle the same gears and pieces for this year’s competition, Kauaibots robotics team has spent a lot of time over the last couple of months outside of school to get this robot ready for the upcoming season.

Some students haven’t had a free weekend since December.

“I have worked 153 hours on this robot. All four years I’ve been here, I’ve worked over 250 hours each year on this,” said Elizabeth Makizuru, a senior at Kauai High School.

The robotics team includes students from other campuses such as Island School, Kauai High, Kapaa High, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle, St. Catherine and five home-schooled students.

Working after school and on weekends to complete the robot, the team featuring seven seniors and a few underclassmen is almost ready for competition on Oahu and San Diego.

“We’re in final assembly at this point,” Massaro said. “We’ve tested all the individual components and they all work, but we just have to make sure that everything will work together now.”

Early next month, eight students and 14 members will head to the first competition site in San Diego while the entire team, 26 students, will go to Oahu later in March for the Hawaii regional competition at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The students are able to travel to both competitions because of a $15,000 donation from Aloha Angels.

“We are impressed by the challenging nature of the project, and by the dedication of the students and adult volunteers, especially that it is student-driven this year,” said Aloha Angels President Ric Cox.

Cox said Aloha Angels has been stepping-up efforts to support science, technology, engineering and math programs at the request of educators.

But before the students can focus on competing, finishing touches have to be made on the robot.

Makizuru and two of her teammates, Tyres Caberto and Nygel Melchor, have fun despite the amount of work that needs to be done in order to compete at a high level.

Melchor, a Kauai High senior, said making this robot has been challenging for more than just technological difficulties. Operator error has also been an obstacle he’s had to overcome.

“It was kinda hard because my fingers and Tyres’ fingers are too fat so we couldn’t get the gears inside,” he said.

Because of their self-proclaimed “chubby fingers” — a name that the trio said is now being tossed around as the official name of the robot — the team has had to rely on Makizuru, team captain, to pick up the slack and install the gears, all while mentoring the underclassmen on the team.

“It’s definitely gotten easier over time. My freshman year was really challenging,” Makizuru said. “But this year has been pretty easy in my opinion. It’s just a little harder since we have to teach the younger generation, and transitioning from a student to mentor has been difficult.”

The team will be performing and practicing with the robot for the public at Kukui Grove Center on Saturday, March 4, from 1 to 3 p.m.

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