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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 12, 2010

Robotics challenges students and teachers

By Bryan Silver

The statement "students build robots, but robotics programs build students," could not be more true. I have worked at Kalani High School for 10 years and have been a part of several science-focused initiatives. No education program has grabbed the students like robotics has.

Two years ago, I was looking forward to leaving Kalani High to teach abroad, when my principal, Gerald Teramae, asked me to lead a robotics team the following year. In starting a robotics club, taking on two different programs, VEX and FIRST Robotics, it was overwhelming what we needed to learn, the resources and money we had to find, mentors to teach, the place to set up camp.

I am so glad I took the plunge. Not only have I seen the students learn and excel, but the program has taught me so much, and the students have renewed my energy.

We started small. I got many of the freshmen I was working with to join the club. Last year, we won a spot for the world championships in VEX and went to compete in Dallas. It was an incredible experience and for most of my team, their first Mainland visit.

In the 2009 FIRST Robotics season, we won the Rookie Inspiration Award at the second annual Hawai'i Regional. The team was on fire! After each tournament, they came back to school excited and wanting to continue working to improve on their design and to learn more.

The kids are incredible. Their desire to try new robotic experiences and to teach others has inspired me to work even harder to support them. This year, in FIRST Robotics, after an intense, three-day regional competition at the Stan Sheriff Center, we won the coveted Chairman's Award.

An unprecedented prize for a second-year team to win, it earned us a spot in the World Championships in Atlanta this week. I know the students earned it. They have worked hard for the entire year and are having a great time learning.

My students have grown exponentially through these opportunities. They are self-reliant, motivated and focused on future goals. They work harder than most other students and though they are not the valedictorians, I believe they are the best. These students look forward to coming to school every day and they stay late working on myriad robotic endeavors.

We are excited to have been chosen, along with six other schools, to represent Hawai'i as we go to Atlanta this week for the international tournament. The team has been putting together the final touches, making new plans, strategies and parts for their robot, Falco Lima.

We cannot wait to show our peers on the Mainland what Hawai'i can do, through our aloha spirit, spirit of competition and our desire to spread the value of robotics education.

Though we aim to bring home the World Championship title, we have already won by just being a part of this outstanding experience. I urge you to get involved in a robotics club in your community or start a new one. You will be amazed that it means so much more than metal, batteries and circuits.

Bryan Silver is head coach of the Kalani High School robotics team. For more information or to watch the championships online this week, go to the Hawai'i Robotics Organizing Committee Web site at www.hawaiiroc.org.