Pint-sized Hawaii robotics team earns spot at big national competition

Elementary school’s robotics team to represent Hawaii in big competition

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Third graders at Kipapa Elementary School built an elaborate LEGO model that reflects their vision for a building in a make-believe city called Boomtown.

“You just press the button. If you want to go this way or this way. It’s tricky because you have to go right in the middle to stop it,” Jonah Baniaga said.

He pointed to a bright green spinning wheel that's part of the structure.

Last month, judges at Hawaii’s FIRST LEGO League Jr. event selected Kipapa’s submission over 53 other public, private and charter schools.

It earned the STEM students a trip to the 2020 LEGO League World Festival in Houston.

"That's an opportunity that's so valuable. Even if they don't choose STEM careers they'll learn life skills," teacher Sandra Hashida said.

In coming up with their design, the five students studied buildings and architecture.

They had to tell a story of how their Boomtown Build is durable, accessible and environmentally friendly.

SonRae Robb said he and his teammates worked hard to hook it up.

"The hubs are wireless and it connects through the computer when you turn it on," he said.

It took two months to complete their project. LEGO required schools to include only one moving part. Kipapa built three.

The students fashioned their final design to resemble a dry dock at Pearl Harbor.

"It kinda fit," Baniaga said.

More than half of Kipapa’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch and the trip to Houston will cost about $8,000. The school’s holding fundraisers and it set up a GoFundMe page.

“It’s investing in the children of Hawaii,” Hashida said.

Kipapa’s team has time to fine-tune its design and its presentation, then it’s off to Houston in April to take on the world.

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