Maui News

ROBOTICS TOURNAMENTS CHALLENGE HAWAI‘I STUDENTS’ STEM SKILLS

May 1, 2009, 11:58 AM HST
* Updated May 1, 3:11 PM
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More than 500 middle and high school students from around the state will spend this weekend testing their technology skills and teamwork at robotics competitions in Hawai’i and on the mainland. Forty-two teams will compete in the Hawai’i Regional Botball Educational Robotics Tournament at the Hawai’i Convention Center on Saturday, May 2. Meanwhile, 18 Hawai’i teams are in Dallas, Texas for the second annual VEX Robotics World Championship, which is taking place today and tomorrow at the Dallas Convention Center and Arena.

“The impressive number of students participating in robotics competition underscores the growing popularity of robotics education in Hawai’i’s schools as a highly effective way for students to have fun while learning,” said Governor Linda Lingle. “Students who engage in robotics, with the support of teachers and mentors from their schools and around our community, are gaining critical thinking skills that will help them in their education as well as their future careers. Through robotics, we are building the next generation of innovators who will find solutions to complex challenges facing our state and nation.”

Hawai’i Regional Botball Educational Robotics Tournament – Honolulu, Hawai’i

Forty-two teams representing 38 schools from around the state will square off in the Hawai’i Regional Botball Educational Robotics Tournament, the largest Botball regional program in the nation, Saturday, May 2 at the Hawai’i Convention Center. Each team consists of 5-20 middle and high school students who design, build, program and document a pair of autonomous (no remote control) robots to play in this year’s open-ended game. The theme of this year’s game is “Alternative Energy.” The event is free and open to the public.

The Botball Educational Robotics Program engages middle and high school aged students in a team-oriented robotics competition that develops students’ science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills as well as their computer science knowledge. In Botball, all the design, software coding, and construction of robots is done by students, and no machining is necessary.

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The Hawai’i Regional Botball program started with a two-day (Jan. 31 – Feb. 1) hands-on professional development workshop for educators to learn about current robotics technology and how to implement it into their classroom. At the workshop, teams received their kits of reusable robotics equipment. Each kit is used for competition as well as by the school or team to integrate into the classroom or extracurricular activities. This ensures that schools will be able to continue to grow their science, math and technology curricula through robotics after the Botball season is over.

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More than 6,000 students nationwide participate in Botball every year and more than 60,000 have competed over the course of 11 years. This year, teams from 23 states and six countries are participating in Botball.

Governor Lingle and Lt. Governor Aiona will attend the Hawai’i Regional Botball Tournament to show their support for the students’ accomplishments.

VEX Robotics World Championship – Dallas, Texas

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Eighteen teams from 10 Hawai’i middle and high schools are competing on the international level at the VEX Robotics World Championship, May 1 & 2 at the Dallas Convention Center and Arena.

The VEX Robotics World Championship is the culmination of over 1,000 teams competing in 100 regional robotics competitions across the globe that use the VEX Robotics Design System. Focused on stimulating education in science, technology, engineering and math, the competition draws students ranging from middle schools and high schools, and for the first year, a college challenge pilot program is being incorporated.

For the past several months, students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, have been working together to build innovative robots designed to solve a set of difficult challenges presented in this year’s game. During the competition, teams will square off in the game of “Elevation.” The object of the “Elevation” challenge is to place cubes into goals of various heights, or “elevations,” and to “own” goals by having the highest cube in a given goal. The teams’ robots that can reach the highest heights most effectively and efficiently will dominate. Team scores can be enhanced by “parking” on the platform or by “controlling” the bonus cube.

The second annual World Championship is expected to draw more than 2,000 students with up to 200 teams. Eighteen of those teams advanced from the recent Inaugural VEX Robotics Pan-Pacific Championship, which took place December 4-6 at the Hawai’i Convention Center where Governor Lingle and Lt. Governor were present to welcome the students and the audience.

Hawai’i schools and teams scheduled to compete in VEX Robotics World Championships:
Campbell High School (3 teams)
Highlands Intermediate (1 team)
‘Iolani School (2 teams)
Kalani High School (1 team)
Kohala High School (1 team)
Lahainaluna High (1 team)
McKinley High School (3 teams)
Moanalua High School (2 teams)
Nanakuli High and Intermediate School (1 team)
Waiakea High School (3 teams)

Robotics is a critical component of the Lingle-Aiona Administration’s Hawai’i Innovation Initiative because it engages students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. The competition also fosters students’ teamwork, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that will better prepare them to enter the work force, regardless of what career they choose.

“We are committed to expanding robotics programs to every school in our state,” said Lt. Governor Aiona. “Robotics is a fun and exciting way for Hawai’i students to excel at science, technology, engineering and math. These young people are learning how to solve tomorrow’s problems today. ”

VEX and Botball are among the six robotics programs active in Hawai’i’s public, private and charter schools, at the elementary through high school levels. The other programs include: FIRST Robotics, FIRST LEGO League, Underwater ROV and Micro Robotics. Each program is designed to engage students of a particular age and interest.

For more information, visit www.robotics.hawaii.gov.

(Posted by Wendy OSHER © 2009) (Photo Courtesy: Office of the Governor, Hawaii)

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