KAPAA — Martian Binonwangan Jr. is the only member of the Cyber Saints, a St. Catherine School robotics team, who will be returning next year.
The other two boys, Luca Rivera and Madhave Collins-Doijode, are graduating, Binonwangan Jr. said Monday at the school’s campus where the First Tech Challenge team recapped its journey leading to a third place finish at the state competition that wrapped up Dec. 9 at Maryknoll School on Oahu.
“I guess I’m going to be the coach,” he said.
The Cyber Saints is one of at least six teams from Kauai who took on the challenge this year under the First Tech Challenge and shared the robotics space with the Kauaibots in a space provided by the Kukui Grove Center where the group shared its inaugural island tournament at the Exhibition Area.
Dr. Bridget Collins, one of the Cyber Saints adult mentors, said First Tech Challenge is designed for those who want to compete head-to-head using a sports model. Teams design, build and program their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams.
The robot kit is reusable from year to year and is programmed based on the mission it faces.
“James Masaro of the Kauaibots pushed to get this because he wanted more kids to be able to participate (due to the less expensive robot) and learn Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” Collins said.
First Tech Challenge is open to students from sixth grade to 12th grade while the Kauaibots is not for all schools.
Heading to the state competition, the Cyber Saints with their Holy Hammer robot, completing 10 matches, were ranked 14th in the field of 29 teams from throughout the state. This was below the Hawaii Technology Academy Kauai which ranked No. 4 following 15 matches, the RoboWarriors (from Kapaa High School) which was seeded No. 8, and the Red Raiders (from Kauai High School) which was seeded No. 12.
The Home Schoolers, a Kauai team who showed strong during the two tournaments held on Kauai, was not able to make the state competition after concerted efforts to protect its Top 5 ranking during the 15-match tournament circuit.
“The high seeding gave HTA Kauai a bye on the opening rounds,” Collins said. “We had to win our preliminary matches.”
Collins-Doijode said he didn’t think the team would even have been chosen.
“Following the preliminaries, the Cyber Saints were ranked tops of the unseeded teams,” Collins said. “It all came down to alliances. Alliances are a very important part of First Tech Challenge.”
Collins-Doijode said the Cyber Saints allied with the RoboWarriors and the Red Raiders for the final rounds.
“The Kapaa team had a robot which was similar to ours,” Collins-Doijode said. “The Red Raiders had a robot that could do things ours couldn’t do, but they were inconsistent.”
The all-Kauai alliance proved fruitful as the unseeded Cyber Saints moved to defeat the better-seeded HTA Kauai alliance, 2-0 to move on to the semifinals where the Cyber Saints lost, 2-1 to the eventual champion Punabots, a team from Punahou Schools on Oahu.
“Everything is last-minute,” Collins said. “We don’t get the mission until it’s close to tournament time. We owe a lot to the Aloha Ike grant administered by the Kauai Economic Development Board. We had an application in, but didn’t know until just before everything started. We also got a lot of help from Martian’s dad, Martian Sr., Logan Alcott, and Cathleen Triplett.”
Glenn Nakamoto, another mentor in the program, said the boys basically have six weeks to get their robot operational.
“Martian and his father spent hours on coding and programming,” Nakamoto said. “He really learned coding and programming because once the robot starts, you can’t stop to make adjustments. You have one time out, but it’s not enough time to re-program. This is autonomous.”
Collins said that with two of the three team members graduating to high school, the Cyber Saints is recruiting members for its 2018 team which will include Binonwangan as its sole returning member.