Baldwin Robotics Captures Regional Title, Heads to World Championship
A three-team robotics alliance led by Baldwin High School captured the 2016 Hawaiʻi FIRST Regional Competition this weekend at the Stan Sheriff Center on Oʻahu – the third time in five years that Baldwin has won the regional title and earned a berth at the prestigious world championship, scheduled later this month in St. Louis, Missouri.
This year’s FIRST competition in Hawaiʻi drew 38 teams from around the world including schools from China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and the US Mainland. Robots designed, built, programmed and driven by the students attempted to score points in a number of ways: by shooting balls into high or low goals, scaling a wall, and breaching multiple types of defenses including successfully crossing rough terrain and/or opening various kinds of doors.
Baldwin High, together with alliance partners ʻIolani School and Kapolei High School, defeated the alliance of Kealakehe High School, Taipei American School from Taiwan, and Marsden High School from West Ryde, Australia, in a tie-breaker match after both alliances each won one match during the finals.
Maui High, allied with the “Thunder Down Under” team from Sydney, Australia, and Lynnwood High School from Lynnwood, Washington, was eliminated during the semifinals by the Baldwin alliance. An alliance of Damien, “Kauaibots” (Island, Kauaʻi High and Kapaʻa High schools) and Lahainaluna, was defeated in the quarterfinals.
In a major upset, an alliance of powerhouses Waialua High and McKinley High with Shenzhen High School from Shenzhen, China, lost in the semifinals to the Kealakehe alliance.
Following two days of qualifying matches, Baldwin was seeded #3 going into the quarterfinals, behind top-ranked Waialua High and #2 ranked McKinley. Maui High School was ranked at 17, Lahainaluna, 23, and St. Anthony, 38.
Maui High didn’t come home empty-handed. The team won the Team Spirit Award and student Sydney Demsey received the FIRST Dean’s List Finalist Award in recognition of her contributions to the team.
“We were absolutely ecstatic – at first I didn’t believe we had actually won,” said Baldwin High senior and Team Captain Evan Grimes. “We had problems with the high gear for our drive and scrambled for hours to fix it, but overall the robot performed really well, and we definitely couldn’t have done it without the whole team.”
“It was worse than track and field,” added junior Renz Vergara, who helped drive the robot and also runs for Baldwin’s track team, “running back and forth to communicate with the other teams in our alliances. I was really nervous but I knew our team could do it.”
In addition to designing and building a competition robot, the team worked on software programming, developed a data gathering app to gather information about other teams’ robots, organized fundraisers, and supported various robotics programs on Maui. They were assisted by Lead Advisor Gary Suter of Baldwin High School, and volunteer mentors Siyuan Chen, a software engineer with Boeing; Bob Brem, a software engineer with Pacific Defense Solutions; and alumnus Makoa Palos.
“I’m very proud of the team, one of the best I’ve had the privilege of working with,” said Brem. “Their teamwork and the time they dedicated were outstanding. They faced some tough matches and really exceeded expectations.”
Baldwin, ʻIolani and Kapolei will go on to compete at the world championship in St. Louis, Missouri, April 27 to 30, 2016.
“We are tremendously grateful for the support of sponsors like Boeing and the Maui Economic Development Board, our volunteer mentors, dedicated parents and school staff, and generous donations and grants from many businesses and individuals in our community,” Suter said. “Everyone can be incredibly proud of these great students.”
The robotics team will be fundraising in earnest to cover the costs of their travel to the world competition, Suter said. Checks can be made payable to Baldwin Robotics and mailed to Baldwin High School, 1650 Kaʻahumanu Avenue, Wailuku, Hawaiʻi, 96793. For more information, contact Gary Suter at (808) 283-9662.
More tournament results are available at the First Inspires website.