It's the toughest challenge yet, but teams from five high schools in the Maui District are taking on the 2011 FIRST Robotics Competition, "LOGO MOTION," with six weeks to design, construct and program two robotic devices.
The Blue Thunder of Maui High School, Baldwin High School's Robotics Club and the Kihei Charter School team aim to build on their years of experience in FIRST competitions. They're joined this year by King Kekaulike High School's 808 Robotics team and Lahainaluna High School's Lunatech's Robotics Club, both entered in the FIRST Robotics challenge for the first time.
"We have a good mix of returning members and some very enthusiastic rookies; together this should give us a well-balanced and well-rounded team and allow Blue Thunder to have another successful year," said Maui High adviser Keith Imada.
Maui High School’s Blue Thunder team members (from left) Justin Jackson, Wyman Tong, Glesa Rosal, Alexander Rose and Benjamin Rose model their robot concepts in clay after receiving the details of the “LOGO MOTION” competition.
A mentor for the 808 Robotics team, Mark Ausbeck with Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said there are rewards just in competing.
"I expect there will be a lot to learn about communication, both about the methods used and about how to communicate engineering and technical concepts successfully to others," he said. "Students will see firsthand that there are always many solutions to an engineering problem, and that each has its trade-offs."
Details of the 2011 competition were announced Jan. 8 by the U.S. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization based in New Hampshire.
The "LOGO MOTION" challenge is to construct and program a robot able to maneuver on a 27-by-54-foot field placing logo pieces - triangles, circles and squares that are elements of the FIRST logo - on poles set up on each end of the playing field. Additional points are given for creating "minibots" that can be deployed by the primary robot to climb vertical poles set up in the field.
The Maui District teams received their kits Jan. 10 and have six weeks, until Feb. 22, to complete designing, building and programming their devices. Robots nationwide are crated on that day and sent to storage areas and are later sent to regional competitions.
The Maui teams will be sending their robots to a regional competition on Oahu in late March. Winners there will qualify for the nationals in late April in St. Louis, Mo.
The students are excited about the challenge.
"We're getting better," said Howard Andrade, a Baldwin Robotics Club senior who has been part of the team's prior FIRST and VEX competitions.
"Once you know what the game is all about, the big challenge is the design," he said. "It's the first step. Once we get the design, we have to get it to do what it's designed to do."
Baldwin team leader Jun Sasaki said he likes to build but also likes the demands of a contest.
"I just like building stuff and making my ideas a reality," he said. "I like to see our ideas work. The other part is the competition. We did pretty good last year, and it was our own design, our own ideas that worked."
Maui High team Capt. Kyra Vila draws inspiration from competition as well.
"Thanks to FIRST, I have realized that I want to become an engineer because I never want to stop building. I never want to stop challenging myself, and I will always want to keep learning," she said.
All teams in the Hawaii competition are required to submit their robot entries to the Hawaii Robotics Organizing Committee by Feb. 22.
The FIRST Hawaii Regional Competition will be held March 24 to 26 at the Stan Sheriff Center at the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus.
On the Net:
U.S. FIRST, www.usfirst.org
Hawaii Robotics Organizing Committee, www.hawaiiroc.org/first-robotics/