These robotics champs are at the top of their game and now they’re sharing their secrets

Wailua High School's robotics program gets international recognition

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Step into Waialua High School’s STEM center and you’re overwhelmed by the school’s success in robotics.

Everywhere you turn, there are trophies, awards and banners from national and international competitions.

“This is our 22nd year doing robotics here at our school,” said Glenn Lee, the program’s lead teacher and coordinator.

Waialua was the first school in Hawaii to start a robotics program, and among the first in the nation to embrace the technology as an educational platform in 1999.

Hundreds of students have learned to thrive in the hand’s on learning environment.

“When our kids decide they want to do something based on their passion or their interest, they believe they can succeed,” Lee said.

Waialua’s Team 359 “The Hawaiian Kids” is well-known in robotics circles.

“I’ve traveled all over the United States and to different countries such as Canada, China, Japan and Korea with the robotics,” team member Anthony Miyataki said.

“I think the most rewarding part is being able to go out there, prove you can do it even though you’re from a small school,” student Jasmin Lacar said.

The program is totally self-funded through grants and sponsorships from the likes of Nike, Oakley, McInerny Foundation, First Hawaiian Bank and Friends of Hawaii Charities. The robotics program also sells products it produces and pours the proceeds into the school’s STEM system.

“We work with local businesses, partners and foundations,” Lee said.

In June, Waialua High School will share the knowledge it has gained with other schools and teachers who are interested in robotics. It will hold its first STEM Robotics Summer Program, an intensive two-week session with one-on-one teaching.

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“Hopefully, through the workshop it will provide some kind of foundation so that they can apply it either to their own programs or something that they want to do in the future,” Lee said.

Students who graduate from Waialua’s Robotics Program learn more than how to build robots. Lee said they acquire skills they can apply for the rest of their lives.

“To me that’s the most important part,” he said.

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