Rockets were flying and gears were whirling at the ninth annual summer Hawaii Island Robotics Academy (HIRA) program.
The five-day camp, put on by the Waiakea High School Robotics Club, was hosted the second week in July and attended by 54 elementary school students from around the state.
Students, divided into two groups by age and participated in activities, including making and testing water-bottle rockets and constructing foam and wooden gliders, in order to understand basic principles of flight. They also built and dueled “alien”-themed brush-bots (robots made with spoons or clothespins and vibrating cellphone motors).
Two staple activities of the camp included building and testing remote-controlled LEGO-based robots (NXT kits) and more sophisticated metal-bodied remote-controlled robots (VEX).
This year, in honor of the World Cup, the competitions to test the students’ creations had a soccer theme.
“The program feeds on its own success” said Dale Olive, who serves as a camp advisor along with fellow WHS teachers Eric Hagiwara and Tom Murphy.
WHS students and alumni act as mentors and operate this program, which many of them participated in years ago.
The experience inspired younger students, but also showed mentors the value of teaching skills such as teamwork and sportsmanship.
“Running the program really brought out the leadership skills of the staff, including younger mentors,” Olive said.
Because the camp is a fundraiser for the WHS Robotics Team, mentors donated their time to plan and operate it.
After nine years, HIRA has become extremely popular, and this year attracted students from Maui and Oahu.
“That, to me, is really neat,” Olive said, “people coming just for HIRA.”
Registration for next year’s summer program start in February. Those interested can email Olive at firstname.lastname@example.org.