Baldwin High School's robotics team was part of a three-team alliance to win the FIRST Hawaii Regional Robotics Competition on Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
The win earns Baldwin, along with alliance members Waialua High School (a perennial robotics powerhouse) and Island Pacific Academy, both Oahu schools, a place at the FIRST Robotics World Championship April 25 to 28 in St. Louis.
Team captain Jun Sasaki, 17, of Wailuku said he felt "excited" and "kind of speechless."
Baldwin High School robotics team captain Jun Sasaki (left) and driver Blayd Calaro hold their trophies next to the team’s robot Saturday at the FIRST Hawaii Regional Robotics Competition at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
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Baldwin High School teacher Gary Suter (from left) coaches team captain Jun Sasaki and driver Blayd Calaro during a match Saturday. The Baldwin team was part of a three-team alliance to win the competition and earn the right to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship on April 25 to 28 in St. Louis.
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"It was an exciting match," he said of the final, winner-take-all competition against the alliance of Punahou, McKinley High School and West Hawaii Exploratory Academy.
Sasaki said that his alliance played three matches against the rival schools, losing the first match, winning the second and winning the third by a "very close" score of 48 to 41.
In the last match, the Baldwin alliance tried to balance its robot on a bridge, like a see-saw, and "we actually fell," Sasaki said. "But we still pulled it off."
Sasaki has been working on robotics for his four years in high school. "This is finally my year," he said. "We finally won."
The most important factors in winning a robotics competition are communication and teamwork, he said.
The team's co-captain is Lauren Unemori, a 17-year-old senior from Wailuku. Another 30 Baldwin students also were part of the team.
The competition involved alliances maneuvering their robots to put as many basketballs in hoops as possible during a two-minute, 15-second match. Balls put in hoops that were more difficult to reach earned extra points. Alliances earned extra points if they could balance on bridges at the end of matches.
Lahainaluna and Maui high schools also competed together in an alliance that included Waiakea High School from the Big Island. Their alliance made it into the semifinals but lost to the Punahou-McKinley-West Hawaii group. Other Maui competitors included King Kekaulike High and Kihei Charter schools.
Baldwin Robotics lead adviser Gary Suter said: "We're ecstatic. It's been a long time, a lot of work.
"The team's worked very hard for a long time, putting in hundreds of hours and working year-round to succeed. We couldn't have done it without our dedicated mentors and sponsors."
The Baldwin team, which goes by the nickname "Bearbotics," was sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board, Maui Electric Co., Boeing, BAE Systems, Textron, Warren S. Unemori Engineering, ROC Hawaii and the Monsanto Fund.
Baldwin's robotics website can be found at www.baldwinrobotics.com.
On Oct. 1, Baldwin and King Kekaulike high schools and Kealakehe High School from the Big Island captured the Maui Fair VEX Robotics Regional Tournament and qualified for the VEX World Championships in Anaheim, Calif., from April 19 to 21.
Parent Luly Unemori said team members expect that they'll need to do some fundraising for travel expenses to both California and Missouri.
More than 1,000 high school students from Hawaii, New Orleans and Taiwan took part in the FIRST competition on Oahu, said Blake Parsons of the Hawaii Robotics Organizing Committee.
FIRST stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology."
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.