06.23.2016Community

‘Opportunity of a lifetime’: Middle schoolers master engineering with robots – and leis!

Students at the 2016 VEX Robotics Competition learn about more than just robots
‘Opportunity of a lifetime’: Middle schoolers master engineering with robots – and leis!

Competition can bring out the worst in people. For one group of middle schoolers, it brought out leis.

Students from Maui’s Lokelani Intermediate School, part of Verizon Innovative Learning, recently earned the opportunity to participate in the esteemed VEX World Championships’ Robotics Competition, an annual event that brings together the top robotic teams from around the globe.

‘Opportunity of a lifetime’: Middle schoolers master engineering with robots – and leis! Verizon helped send the students to Louisville, Kentucky, to compete. It was there that the Lokelani Robotics Team, better known as “Kolohe Kids,” faced off against other middle school students in games using robots they’d built using the VEX Robotics Design System.

“This is an experience and opportunity of a lifetime for our students,” the school’s vice principal, Ginger Camara, said. “We are a Title I school where a lot of our students are underprivileged… they would never have been able to have an opportunity like this.” 

And though the competition was fierce, the event was about more than just robots. In between competitions, the middle schoolers got the chance to meet other students and hear their ideas.

“Meeting other teams from around the world has been more of an eye-opener for our students,” team coach Joseph Meno said. They’re “a part of something greater.”

As they toured the event, absorbing what their competitors had to say, the Kolohe Kids handed out yarn leis.

We want “to share aloha with all our participants and all our alliances,” Camara said.

“I think this experience is going to make me a better engineer,” one Lokelani student said. “I see different ideas from other teams, so I can build something in the future that can help the world.”

Meno hopes that’s the case for his team, who placed 73rd out of the 171 teams in their division: “They’re here to realize nothing is impossible.”

Click below to follow the journey of our Verizon Innovative Learning school students: