KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the realm of submerged robotics, Kailua High School's team isn't just treading water.
"This team is world class. We go up there and we compete against colleges and professional engineering companies, and we beat almost all of them," team member Austin Vegas said.
Last year, the squad finished fifth against international competitors.
"Every time that we present something at the international level teams are very impressed. They steal ideas from us. That's how good these kids are," team mentor Len Poleshaj said.
That's amazing considering the Kailua High kids could only scrape together a few hundred dollars to build their robot. Other teams spend $30,000 or $40,000 on their machines.
"We make up for that by finding random materials that we have," Christopher Campos said. "We made our claw out of a cutting board. We cut it in half and then shaped it in a claw design. We used it because, why not? it works."
Kailua again qualified for the MATE International ROV Competition later this month. So far the team has raised about $17,000 for travel expenses, trading community service for support.
"We decided that we were going to go to elementary and intermediate schools in our community and talk about robotics, give them a presentation of what it's like, and the benefits that come with it," Vegas said.
But the team must come up with an additional $10,000 by June 19 or they'll miss the competition.
"If we do everything how we are practicing we can get first place. To not have the money, knowing that we could have done it would just be devastating," Campos said.
"They're so close," Poleshaj said. "These guys could be the best in the world. How often does a child have a chance to be the best at something in the world? This is it!"
The international battle of bots takes place in a pool in Seattle. To get there the team will have to first overcome the challenge of the pocketbook.
If you can help, donations are being accepted at Kailua High School, 451 Ulumanu Drive, Kailua HI, 96734. Make checks payable to Kailua High School and designate them to the Robotics Program.