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Robotics Programs Thrive in Hawaii Schools

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Recently, Hawaiian Airlines, in its in-flight magazine, ran an inspiring article titled "Kicking Bot" that every K-12 teacher in America should read as food for thought.

The anecdotes and supporting photos feature students engaged in robotics programs in Hawaii and remind us what education is all about: uncovering the hidden talents of our children and building new interests in skills sets for the 21st century. Robotics programs have grown exponentially in Hawaii, with nine qualifying state competitions each year.

This did not happen overnight; the robotics programs owe their existence and success to insightful collaborative partnerships between a triad of government, business, and education:

  • The Hawaii state legislature directs funding to the University of Hawaii's College of Engineering to work with school communities in robotics for students. Robotics programs in Hawaii were allocated over a million dollars during the last school year in an economy that is now looking to our students for future creative-sector jobs in research and design, as well as entrepreneurship.
  • The state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism provides oversight and assistance to schools through scholastic robotics programs and funding for a progression of competitions from local to state to national scope, and even at an international level. This is evidenced in its 2009-11 Yearly Activity Plan.
  • Hawaii's K-12 schools maximize this expertise and support to engage students in contextual learning activities related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in order to build future interests and dreams in exciting STEM careers such as medicine, biotech, engineering, aerospace, robotics, land conservation, and marine science.

An excellent illustration of "Kicking Bot" is happening at Waialua High Robotics, on Oahu's North Shore, where the K-12 First Robotics program, managed by Glenn Lee, aligns with Hawaii's standards-based student assessment of life skills. Students are initially taught the value of communication, teamwork, collaboration, quality control, integrity, responsibility, creativity, and talent/skill diversity.

Art Kimura, retired from the University of Hawaii and now leading Future Flight Hawai'i, has steadily worked over two decades to build the robotics programs through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Teacher in Space Project, NASA grants, and interested corporate sponsors.

Kimura's hard work and dedication have paid off handsomely for the students of Hawaii as their robotics projects build serious interest from NASA and corporations. Kimura's legacy now includes high school students being offered patents for their ideas as they work with NASA as educational interns at the space agency's Ames Research Center.

When high school students place top honors in university level robotic competitions, you know that the future is already here. Our digital natives are proving to us that innovation is not connected to how old they are, but rather how well they can think outside the box.

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Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert

Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Marian's picture
Autism,Special Ed, Elementary School

Very interesting. I haven't had exposure to advanced Robotics, but I have some "Robotix Toys" I teach high functioning Autistic students, in a self-contained environment. I kept looking at my small box containing a Robotix snap-together kit from the late "80's. (I picked it up at a thrift store or rummage sale a long time ago).One day I decided to look at the instructions. They said to match up each piece, with the picture, etc. Well-I was semi -boggled, not wanting to bother, even thought here were not so many pieces. I brought it to school and showed it to my best behaved student.He was low in Reading skills. Most Autistic are visual learners. He sat down and made the first configuration, then the others. He was proud of what he did, and shared it with the others. It worked geat, and I went on EBAY and bought several more (up to 200 piec ones).All of the pieces are interchangable. There wasn't enough time to continue with it, but he taught me!

Matthew Warner's picture

Hi Katie,
This is my first time participating in your blog, but I really enjoyed your post. I think it is incredible what children are capable of. I teach a middle school technology class where one of our units is in Automation and Robotics. We use a system called Fischertechniks which is similar Kinex but with more possibilities. It always amazes me with the contraptions that my students create and the programs they write to operate them using the software Robopro. I hope to see robotics to really start taking off in our schools across the country! Thanks again!


Technology Camp Manager's picture

This article is fascinating! I am a former teacher who fell in love with a summer camp that offers Robotics education, among other technology courses, to students across the US and Canada at over 60 prestigious universities. We use LEGO(r) MINDSTORMS(r) Education NXT Base Set and the VEX(r) Robotics Design System to teach kids about Robotics and get them thinking out of the box! It is amazing to see what our campers create. They build complex robotic sensors, advanced robot arms, drive trains and program "smarter" robots. I am happy that government, business, and education can team up to provide our youth such a wonderful, fun, hands-on opportunity like robotics is!

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