McKinley High School robotics team member Ike Nagamine controls a robot's arms to stack boxes while Honda Wong maneuvers the robot into position.

NASA to the rescue for
McKinley robotics team

If NASA hadn't awarded $10,000 to the McKinley High School robotics team in February, the team never would have won the silver trophy at a San Jose regional competition.

Milton Lau, adviser to the McKinley High School Robotics Team, said the students weren't planning to go to the March regionals. But Mark Leon, project manager of NASA's Robotics Education Project, inspired by the group's teamwork and aloha spirit, "didn't want us to miss out on anything."

They didn't. They scrambled to get ready for the March competition and, as the first seed, won second place with ally Waialua High School.

The McKinley team later won the gold in the Pacific Northwest Regional in Seattle in April.

Leon started working with the team four years ago when it entered the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, sponsored by the NASA Ames Research Center. In past years the team has won two major awards for team spirit, spreading the aloha spirit and behaving in an exemplary fashion, Lau added.

Other big donors that enabled the team to compete in the regionals included the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which gave $10,000; Hawaiian Electric Co., $5,000; Drs. Gordon and Vivian Ing, $5,000; Ted Wakida Foundation, $1,500; Wesco, $1,500 and electrical supplies; SUMMA Technologies, $1,000; 3M Hawaii, $500; and Meadow Gold Dairies, $500.

Team members include Li-Anne Dela Vega, Anna Li, Anne Lam, co-captains, plus Elizabeth Lee, Dawn Yara, Cassie Oda, Ike Nagamine, Honda Wong, Chester Lim, Magic Dos, Derek Wong, John Zhous, Kelly Schalow, Mark Labrador, Daniel Ng, Matthew Kunita and Ricky Tso.

Their mentors, most of whom have helped the team the last four years, are Alan Ing, Tom Battisto, Enrique Che, all from HECO; Roy Tom, master machinist for RHT Enterprise; Rodney Leong, machinist and instrument maker from Pearl Harbor Shipyard; Brent Hirata, a University of Hawaii graduate student; and Matthew Chun, a McKinley alumnus and Honolulu Community College graduate. Hank Kusunoki is co-adviser.

Other high schools that participated in FIRST robotics competitions include Mililani, Waipahu, Waiakea and Hawaii Preparatory Academy.


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