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Robotics team rides high on enthusiastic attitude


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POSTED: Sunday, March 29, 2009

Falco Mahina harvested moon rocks and empty cells from the lunar field, then dumped them into a trailer, but the competition was just too fierce.

Her team finished second to last yesterday in the FIRST in Hawaii Regional Robotics Competition, but the experience kept the Kalani Falcons excited about their next competition.

“;We're a rookie team so there's a lot for us to learn,”; said freshman Eric Teshima, unofficial team captain. “;I think we can grow up to be a really strong team in the future.”;

Thirty-three high-school teams competed in the second Hawaii regional competition at the Stan Sheriff Center by FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Most teams were from Hawaii, while seven came from the mainland and two teams flew in from Mexico and the Philippines.

They competed on three-team alliances in 61 matches. To win, their remote-controlled bots carried or scooped up balls and put them into trailers for points.

Bryan Silver, a Kalani special education science teacher, helped start the school's robotics club this year. It has only about eight members, but they are committed.

They spend more than 20 hours a week on robotics, working in their “;garage”; at Kalani until 7 p.m. every school day. They used to work until 10 p.m., but the school started closing the facility earlier.

“;We spend more hours on robotics than we do on anything for school,”; Teshima said. “;Robotics is really rewarding. You're doing something you like, so you can't get tired of it.”;

“;We're not really known in school yet,”; he added. “;We're looking for committed people.”;

Teshima encouraged students to try robotics because it gives them a taste of possible career choices.

“;That's the reason why I do robotics. I'm trying to figure out what I enjoy and so for robotics I enjoy CAD (computer-assisted design),”; he said.

Despite the team's slow start in the FIRST competition, Kalani has already won an invitation to the 2009 VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas. Five freshmen will compete in the event next month.

The winning alliance in the FIRST competition that ended yesterday was Maui, McKinley and Moanalua high schools. They will have a chance to compete in the 2009 FIRST Championship in Atlanta next month.