By Tino Ramirez
Advertiser North Shore Bureau
WAIALUA After months of preparation in electronics, engineering, metal-working and working with high-tech media, the 16 members of Waialua High Schools robotics team are hustling to get their project together for a late-March competition in San Jose, Calif.
The team wasted little time Monday after getting their first look at the components they must assemble. After a classroom discussion of the FIRST (an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics regional championships rules, the team went into the schools wood shop, where motors, wheels, switches and other parts were laid out on tables.
Then it was back into the classroom to start work on strategies.
"Its a really big mess of parts. Looking at them, Im lost. It was explained, but I dont know exactly how you do it," said junior Kory Ikeda, who will help create animated 3-D graphics on what the robot is supposed to do.
But its not about the robot.
"The robot is incidental," said Stuart Nishimura, a civilian engineer with the Navys Undersea Warfare Detachment in Lualualei and one of several adults mentoring the team. "Were here to impress on the students that there is value in using your brain. Its cool to use your brain to solve these problems."
The competition is meant to interest students in engineering and college, said Nishimura.
This will be the teams second time in the competition. Last year Waialua won the team spirit award, and in an alliance with Honolulus McKinley High School and Hope Chapel Academy of Costa Mesa, Calif., the team won second place.
"Its going to be challenging," said Ikeda. "Well have to know whats going on with the construction and with everything all the smaller groups are doing."
Having just completed tutorials for the 3-D computer program, senior Mark Menor is worried about how theyre going to do it. "This is definitely more complicated than anything weve done for school," he said.
The competition will definitely give the team a true-to-life working experience, said Nishimura. It will require the team to cooperate at home and in San Jose with other schools.
"Thats the thing about the game I kind of like, the need for cooperation," Nishimura said to the students. "Thats real important. When you go out and work, thats exactly how it is. Its not fun all the time, but its something you have to be good at."
This years games will not be robot vs. robot, as they were last year when Waialua competed for the first time.
The competitions 52 schools will form four-team alliances and be given two minutes on a court to score in several ways. The four robots will cross a "bridge" to the other side, for example, drop balls into goals or place the goals onto the bridge.
The problem with the bridge, said Nishimura, is that pushing down on one end raises the other.
To cross, the robots must work together, so there must be communication among alliance members.
"This year is way more difficult," said Nishimura. "This year youre trying to cooperate. Its trying to show students what its like in the real world.
Dean Kamen, the founder of the competition, said, "You dont find a cure for diabetes by blowing up all the insulin plants. You have to work together and come up with a solution."
Second-year competitor Sheri Aplaca said she is looking forward to the coming weeks.
Last year seemed grueling, but the work and trip were memorable, she said.
Although she likes science, she is more interested in media and plans to study journalism in college.
The robotics project has given her hands-on opportunities, she said.
"This year were going to put together a video, which we didnt do last year as part of our documentation," said Aplaca. "We didnt do very well in the competition, so were trying to broaden our horizons by doing videos."
[back to top]