For the third consecutive year, Kealakehe High School Robotics — Tiki Techs — earned an invitation to the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology World Championship in St. Louis. Earlier this season, the team won NASA’s Engineering Inspiration Award, and $5,000 in funding, at the Los Angeles Regional. The team also won FIRST’s highest honor, the Chairman’s Award, at the San Bernadino, Calif., Regional.
Kealakehe is the only Hawaii school to win Engineering Inspiration at a mainland competition and only the second school to win a chairman’s award. Both awards qualified the team for the world championship in St. Louis. The team is one of four third-year programs to have qualified each of its first three seasons and one of just six Hawaii teams to qualify.
Sophomore programmer Kyla B. Hollis was excited to win the Chairman’s Award. “It was an indescribable moment. Winning that award just showed how good of a team we are; it felt amazing to be recognized for that.”
First-year member Kaylee DePonte found the award inspiring. “We were up against teams that have been together for 10-plus years. We have all worked so hard to have a well-rounded program, and winning this award has proved despite being in a rural area we can compete against anyone. Compete and compete well.”
“Being a part of this team has been a great experience,” said senior Maake Teutau, a Kealakehe football captain and member of the Design, Engineering and Fabrication team. “It’s been fun working and accomplishing a lot together. Winning these awards say a lot about our team, and we’re planning to do keep doing well wherever we go.”
Mike Hauck, the team’s head technical mentor, said the County Council, state Legislature, governor’s office, Walt Disney Imagineering, NASA and a national news network have contacted the team about further recognition. “It’s been such an honor to work with the kids from Kona and see them take on the world’s best and do so well. I’ve always known they could do anything and now they know it too,” he said.
An overview video may be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=4SrSnauPSJI. The FRC World Championship event begins today and runs through Saturday in St. Louis. The Kealakehe team is raising funds to cover expenses, with more than $75,000 to raise by the end of this month. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to the school.