Hawaii students prepare to face off in fierce robot competition

Michael Nagaishi
Michael Nagaishi
Codey Hongo
Codey Hongo
Bryan Silver
Bryan Silver

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL) - The countdown begins with the transformation of the Stan Sheriff Arena at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Crews have started setting it up for the 2009 NASA/BAE Systems FIRST in Hawaii Regional Robotics Competition where 1,000 students from Hawaii and all over the world will face off.

Practice is on Thursday, game day is Friday and Saturday.

The Governor's office says March Madness has nothing on this competition

24 of the 34 teams are from Hawaii. Most of them have robotics experience, although there is one rookie - Kalani High School.

But that's not stopping the Falcons from shooting for the moon.

It's like working with high-tech Lego's, building a robot from scratch.

"It makes me really nervous because we don't have as much experience as everyone else," said Kalani High Freshman, Michael Nagaishi.

They're given only a kit of parts, and two basic robot designs. The rest is up to them.

The team has been practicing on a smaller version of the actual robot the students custom-made for competition.

"As you can see, this robot is designed to pick up these little cubes while the larger robot is designed to pick up these really big balls," said Kalani High Freshman, Codey Hongo.

"The point of this competition is lunacy. Lunacy is a moon like surface where our robots are going to behave like they're a rover on the moon," said Bryan Silver, the team coach.

Their mission is to pick up 'moon rocks' and dunk them into a rival team's trailer.

"And they're going to be not wanting you to score any balls into the their trailer during competition so they're going to be moving around duking and jiving to make you to not get any balls into the trailer," said Silver.

The ultimate goal is to build a brighter tomorrow.

"In the future I want to have an engineering job," said Hongo.

Some team members have different dreams.

"I want to be a biologist," said Nagaishi.

But whatever the future has in store for them, this competition gives them the skills to shoot for the moon.

"It helps me learn responsibility and it helps me learn how to be dedicated to something," said Nagaishi.

The robotics competition celebrates the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's historic mission to the moon.