Chairman’s Essay – 2015

Team 3880’s motto, kulia i ka nu’u, or “we strive for the summit,” embodies the immense progress our team has made during the 2015 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) season “Recycle Rush.” We continue to develop rich industrial & educational partnerships, & we progress in creating platforms for creative & technical skills enhancement. We also excel in enriching our communities’ awareness of STEM education. As fifth year returnees to FRC, we enhance & diversify our team’s goals to establish deeper & more extensive learning results for our students through the new opportunities we have encountered. The FIRST Chairman’s Award gives us the freedom to reflect, elaborate, and showcase the perseverance & successes of Team 3880, the Tiki Techs.


Kealakehe Robotics began in 2010, stemming from the vision of 2 students & eventually blossoming into a successful & growing organization. We are driven by redefining our team’s previous success & are guided by our core values: 1) develop rigorous STEM aptitudes for all students; 2) leverage the diversity of our team to create a premier program that will benefit future generations of students; 3) maximize the potential of robotics to serve as a positive throttle for a sustainable community; 4) create life-long learners passionate about problem solving & finding innovative solutions; 5) avail a safe place for students to explore their dreams & abilities while developing discipline, empathy, communication skills, & responsible risk taking.


Our team never strays from our vision: “…enriching the minds of motivated students in science & technology.” We do not limit our students to strictly STEM related skills; Team 3880 opens its doors to all students and facilitates the development of their personal dedications and corresponding skills. From graphic design to welding, our students are encouraged to do what they love & are passionate about. The result of housing a wide variety of talented students is the production of quality work, the will to persevere, & an overwhelming sense of purpose. With the support & guidance of our caring & informed mentors, Team 3880 seeks to expose students to rigorous, time-bound, & professional problems in hopes of preparing them to prosper in a 21st century career field.


With our core values, motto, & team vision, we embody the FIRST values while personalizing them to our needs and diversity. We practice Gracious Professionalism & Coopertition on & off the competition field through our friendly relations with other robotics teams in our community. Every so often before Ship Day, we invite WHEA’s high school robotics Team 3881 to our school library to coordinate with one another about the possible flaws in each other’s robots. We lend materials, discuss ways to improve our efficiency, & have fun after a long & arduous season.


Our team stands out when compared to other successful programs because of our emphasis on diversity. Our ethnic diversity (more than 14 different heritages), gender equality (females compose half of our project captains), economic diversity (majority of team classified as economically disadvantaged), & learning diversity (several valued teammates serviced through special education) enable every student to pursue their passion by: “being excellent and bringing out that which is excellent in others.” Our transition from a seasonal team into a year-long program meeting each week all year shows how Team 3880 has grown leaps & bounds in terms of skill, resources, & passion since its beginning.


Our team focuses on creating a supportive, structured environment for innovators by establishing a Design Team specific for the FIRST season, which includes fabrication, engineering, design, documentation, operations, & programming. We have utilized Stanford University’s Design Thinking process that Apple, Google, Facebook, & other technology pioneers are known for using. Our use of Design Thinking helps us create Divergent Thinking games which sharpen our mental agility by playing & inventing mental responsiveness tasks. These games stand as the starting point for much of our weekly work with K-8 students & teachers. We have recently expanded this series into a curricular resource for the state. For Tiki Technology students, thinking outside of the box is the norm because, as Peter Skillman says, “the radical collaboration of a diverse & passionate team always beats the efforts of the lone genius.” This process creates a true synergy with our diversity & allows us to find unique solutions to problems posed by robotics & engineering competitions. Our 2014 & 2015 Design Team used this mindset to produce a reliable & accurate robot completed in CAD first, then tested as components before final construction.


As rookies during 2011’s “Logo Motion,” we entered FRC anxious & inexperienced with no engineering mentors, a $1500 budget, & the back counter of a science lab as our workroom. During week 4, our team discovered a sizing issue, forcing us to rip off 60 pounds of material & start fresh with no budget or stock. In addition, we had our laptop with all of our program files stolen the week before competition. On top of that, in the pressures of a rookie year, we misunderstood a motor rule requiring us to fully remake 2 of our 3 subsystems ensuring every hole, weld, wire, & code line was constructed by students. Overall, we pushed through many difficult obstacles, proving ourselves as the strongest defensive robot in competition. As a part of the winning alliance, we secured our place at FIRST Championship. For our unique & efficiently designed robot, our team also received the General Motors Industrial Design Award. The FIRST Hawaii Regional exposed our team to ingenuity & commitment. By 2011, we attended 2 world championships & Hawaii governor Abercrombie declared July 4, 2011 “Kealakehe Robotics Team Day.”

We built on this success in 2012 by winning NASA’s Engineering Inspiration (EI) Award & traveling back to St. Louis for World Championships in just our second year. In 2013, Team 3880 struck gold early with a second EI Award at the Los Angeles Regional. This award came with $5,000 in funding, recognizing our team as exceptional ambassadors for STEM. In addition to this success, we won FIRST’s highest honor, the Chairman’s Award, at the San Bernardino Regional. Kealakehe was the youngest team to win a Chairman’s Award in 2013, the only Hawaiian school to win an EI Award at a mainland competition, & the second school to win a Chairman’s Award. Both awards qualified the team for the World Championship in St. Louis where we were 1 out of 4 third-year programs to have qualified each of its first 3 seasons & 1 out of 6 teams from Hawaii to qualify. We won 28 additional awards over our first 3 years in other STEM competitions & started programs in FIRST, VEX, BotBall, CyberPatriot, FLL, Underwater ROV, Science Olympiad, SkillsUSA, & IPPF.


A major aspect of our team is community outreach & our effect on people of all ages. In addition to our 40 outreach events & weekly team mentoring, we have created & hosted the first ever Kona STEM Camp. For STEM Camp 2013, we hosted 120 3rd-8th graders for a week of 10 hour STEMtastic days filled with experiments, robot design, video game creation, computer programming, & engineering challenges. Our student project leaders worked with the scientific & high-tech professional communities from the Big Island, Oahu, & Maui to bring in daily experts to provide stimulating hands-on experiences in their specific fields. While campers had amazing experiences with renowned scholars and practitioners, most campers said the work with our student facilitators was the most enjoyable. In 2014, we held 2 STEM camps for 150 students each, and we are planning to increase the number of children in our 2015 STEM camps to come. Our hope by developing this program is to create a better future for our community through early engagement of local keiki robotics & STEM.


The drive possessed by both our current members & alumni has translated our success into personal opportunities to attend prestigious universities such as UPenn, Princeton, UH Manoa, Cornell, Rice, Columbia, University of Tsukuba, NYU, & Washington, maintaining the program’s 100% college rate for enrolled students.


The Tiki Tech’s most outstanding achievement to date is definitely our Moon RIDERS project. We are partnered, out of all Hawaii public schools, with PISCES, NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Iolani School, & Google Lunar X Prize teams to test & validate the measurement tools of the Electrodynamic Dust Shield (EDS). KSC developed the EDS in order to lessen the effect of abrasive dust on sensitive equipment on the moon’s surface. Kealakehe was selected because of our active engagement in STEM education & extensive successes in different robotic & academic competitions. In addition, the Big Island’s geographical conditions on our volcano, Mauna Kea, are very similar to the lunar surface & make for accurate testing grounds. Moon RIDERS will occupy the majority of the Tiki Tech’s time until its launch date that is set for the winter of 2016. This milestone in our team’s history is indicative of our hard work, diligence, & enthusiasm for robotics. Not only has this experience affected the scientific field, it has impacted the life of every student involved by giving them the confidence & satisfaction of seeing an embodiment of their laborious work.

Our team is passionate about everything we do; the number of competition wins and scholarships earned is not merely as important as the skills & love for robotics we hope all of our students take with them as they enter new careers. To the world we are Kealakehe Robotics, Tiki Technologies, or Team 3880, but to us, we are family. We are Kealakehe Robotics & we are determined to strive & continue to strive for the summit.