Students Ike Nagamine, left, and Honda Wong control movements of a robot built by the McKinley team.

McKinley High wins
regional robot competition

The team takes top honors with
mentoring from Hawaiian Electric

By Rosemarie Bernardo

McKinley High School student Honda Wong jumped with excitement when he and his teammates won the Pacific Northwest Regional of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

"I was just thrilled," the 17-year-old said.

Wong and 16 teammates thanked their teachers and mentors from Hawaiian Electric Co. for helping them win the regional FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) competition held in Seattle from April 3 to 5.

This is the first time McKinley took home the gold after competing the past four years.

In this year's competition, the robots needed to be able to knock over high stacks of large plastic storage containers and then re-stack them one on top of the other.

The robots then went up a ramp and at the top prevented being knocked off by other robots.

"We finally did it for our mentors," said Wong. "I know our mentors worked really hard. I wanted to pay them back."

Along with placing first at the regional out of 36 teams, McKinley also won the Leadership in Control Award, which recognizes the students' skills in computer programming of their robot.

"To come back and exceed our expectations, it's amazing," said robotics team co-leader Li-Anne Dela Vega.

Last month, McKinley robotics team members also participated in the Silicone Valley Regional in San Jose, Calif., where they took home the Driving Tomorrow Technology Award for the overall performance of their robot.

For six weeks straight, students and mentors would often work past midnight to plan, design, build and test their robot called Naia 4.

"You could see math equations come to life. It's a great supplement to what you learn in high school," Dela Vega said.

Enrique Che, a mentor from Hawaiian Electric Co., said: "The most important lesson they get out of this is teamwork. Social skills are more important than anything else. We use this as a vehicle to get that across."

Robotics instructor Milton Lau said he hopes other schools will implement a robotics team to help students prosper in their career goals.

FIRST Robotics Competition

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