Wai’anae Coast Elementary Students Heading to New Hampshire Summer Robotics Camp: Support Needed

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Contact: Kay Fukuda
(808) 561-0427


Wai’anae Coast Elementary Students Heading to New Hampshire Summer Robotics Camp

Three Wai’anae Coast elementary schools, in collaboration with the University of Hawai’i, are preparing to send twelve students to a weeklong summer robotics camp in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Students from Waianae Elementary, Kamaile Academy and Nanaikapono Elementary got their first taste of robotics and the intensity of participating in statewide robotics competition this year, as a result of their participation in PALS (Program for Afterschool Literacy Support).  PALS is funded by the Native Hawaiian Education Program (NHEP), is administered out of University of Hawai’i SEED (Student Equity Excellence and Diversity), and has been operating in elementary schools along the Wai’anae Coast since 2007.  This year robotics was introduced into the program, which provides place-based academic enrichment opportunities to 4th, 5th and 6th graders, with a goal of bringing STEM opportunities to elementary grades during afterschool hours; and creating a robotics pipeline along with Wai’anae Coast.  In November 2011, PALS coordinated the First Annual Wai’anae District Robotics Tournament which resulted in three Waianae Coast teams going on to compete at the state level.

Students were awe struck by the first-time opportunity and the excitement has not dissipated.  The student engagement and enthusiasm has not gone unnoticed by principals and teachers.   At Nanaikapono, two robotics tables are a permanent fixture on the cafeteria stage so students can practice throughout the day.  As the Nanaikapono principal wrote after witnessing her students prepare at a pre-tournament scrimmage:

“I had the great fortune to watch our robotics team at their first scrimmage at Kapolei Middle two weeks ago. It was awesome! I saw high engagement, problem-solving, innovating, collaboration and teaming not just among our school team but with the other participating students as well. It was an experience that made me think, “Ah, so this is what a 21st century learner looks like!”  I’m so glad we have this wonderful opportunity to have robotics at Nanaikapono. All of the elements involved – science, hands-on construction, problem solving, technology – speak to the inherent skills and interests of our students. To have observed our robot only programmed to move forward on the first round to completing several tasks without penalties by round 3 was thrilling! In 2 hours our students figured out programming and how to think and act under pressure! Our students gained confidence with every try and they’ve been passing it on to others in school! (So thanks for building the second table, Kellen!!)  A great program like this happens because of great kids, great teachers like Josette, Marlene and Kim,and great partnerships like with PALS. My biggest concern is: how does one cheer at events like this? We wholeheartedly appreciate this opportunity!”

A fifth grade math teacher, who is also a PALS teacher,  relates the impact robotics has on one of his students.

“At the beginning of the school year she was shy and lacked confidence in her abilities. She is a student with lots of potential to do well in school but has had very few opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities. She had to be coaxed into joining the PALS robotics group and at first she attended the sessions more as an observer than a participant. However, with the encouragement of the other students she soon became involved in the problem solving aspects of the robotics challenges. She began to contribute to the various tasks; sometimes offering a possible solution or building an attachment to the robot so it could complete a mission. As her confidence grew in the robotics arena so did her confidence as a participant in the Food Factor Challenge. She began to contribute more and even spoke in front of a panel of judges (twice!) to do her part as a member of the PALbots team. This was no small feat for her. For both competitions she was almost a “No show” because she wasn’t sure that she could actually present orally in front of others. She did show up, however, because she just had to – everyone was counting on her.

I think the biggest change has occurred in the classroom. Prior to her joining the robotics team, she rarely raised her hand to contribute to class discussions or she just sat as an observer during small group problem-solving sessions. Much of the confidence that she began to exhibit in PALS began to be exhibited in the classroom. She is now more of a risk taker, participating more actively with her newfound self-confidence.”

These Waianae Coast PALS students now have an opportunity to attend a 5-day summer robotics camp at the LegoLeague national headquarters in Manchester, New Hampshire the week of July 9, 2012.   This is an incredible opportunity for our keiki!  They will learn so much more about robot construction, programming strategies, teamwork – and what a cross cultural experience!

These robotics students are just one example of the talented pool of students along the Waianae Coast; students who consistently battle the negative stereotypes of student achievement and capability.  One of the PALS teams doubled their robot performance score from the district tournament to the state tournament.  That team placed about 25th out of a field of almost 60 – and this was their first try!!!  And their robot performance was within reach of the first place winner!

The cost of attending the summer camp is $2400 per person.  PALS is required to raise most of the funds in order to send the deserving students and teachers to the summer camp.

In addition, each school team will be required to hold its own fundraising in order to pay for incidental costs, including a day of canoeing in the White Mountains.  Each student will also be required to attend pre-travel study sessions.  The students will study the history and geography of the Manchester region, and learn iMovie making, as students will be required to create a documentary of the experience.

We are seeking donations in order to provide this incredible opportunity for the Wai’anae haumana, and are reaching out to the community to ensure this experience becomes real.

One Response

  1. Willing to help this event.


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