COURTESY OF DALE OLIVE
A 1-cubic-inch "microbot" produced by the robotics team at Waiakea High School in Hilo compares with a quarter.
It’s a small world
Waiakea High's robotics team wins big in Japan with its tiny machine
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HILO » Waiakea High School's Robotics Club returned from competition in Japan with a first-place prize in the category of fully autonomous, or self-guided, robots.
Equally impressive, the robot in question, a 1-inch creation named Teeny Humuhumu, finished the maze course in a scant 15 seconds.
The club also won third- and fifth-place finishes in two other categories.
"They were just a success beyond my wildest dreams," said science teacher Dale Olive, who advises the club with math teacher Eric Hagiwara.
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HILO » Students from Hilo's Waiakea High School who spent months building tiny robots returned from Japan last week having beaten some of the best high school and university engineering students from Japan and Korea at the 16th annual Micro Robot Maze Contest in Nagoya.
Hilo teams took first, third and fifth place in three competitions.
Before 17 students on the 40-member Waiakea Robotics Club went to Japan, physics teacher Dale Olive told them, "You just beat one team and I'll be happy."
"They were just a success beyond my wildest dreams," said Olive, who advises the club with math teacher Eric Hagiwara.
The competition tested two broad groups: robots of 1 cubic inch and those of 1 cubic centimeter, less than a half-inch.
The tiny robots had to scoot through a maze that looked like miniature city streets bordered by buildings. Entries could be guided with wires or infrared light, or they could be "autonomous" and depend on a pre-programmed, on-board microcomputer.
The Waiakea team that won first place in the Fully Autonomous competition did it with a 1-inch model called Teeny Humuhumu, which crossed the finish line in just 15 seconds. No other team even finished in that category.
"We were the only ones to drive through the maze," Olive said.
COURTESY OF DALE OLIVE
Waiakea High junior Kelson Lau works on a circuit board for a 1-cubic-inch robot. The team took first place in Japan with its pre-programmed "autonomous" robot.
Teeny Humuhumu was designed so it could also be remotely controlled. It won a special fifth place prize in the 1-inch remote-controlled race.
A Waiakea robot named Stich.05 won third place in the remote-controlled, 1-centimeter category.
Students at Waiakea have built robots for seven years, big bulky things up to 4 feet high. They switched to microrobots for the first time this year with the help of Riley Ceria, a former Waiakea student who earned an engineering degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, then returned to the Big Island to work for the Caltech Submillimeter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
The rules let experts give advice, but students have to do all the building.
Sophomore Leanne King explained how she built her own circuit board by designing it on a computer screen, printing it on paper and then using a hot plate to transfer the design from the paper to a piece of copper. Placed in acid, the copper dissolved except where the design was printed.
This was the first year an American school had competed against teams from Japan andSouth Korea, and even one from a university in Guatemala.
The Japanese were so impressed by the Waiakea students that they were asking what university they came from, Olive said.
Art Kimura, education specialist with the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium at the University of Hawaii, served as one of four judges, he said.
The entire proceedings were conducted in English, Kimura said. Beyond wanting their students to know English, the Japanese want them to be familiar with working with other cultures, he said.