Updated: October 17, 2022
For Maui High School’s hard-working robotics team, learning is the best kind of prize.
Though the 29-student group did not win, MHS Team 2443: Blue Thunder left the 2022 FIRST World Championship (FRC) stage in Texas with accolades that are lasting.
“When I saw the robots at Worlds, I knew that there was so much I could learn here,” said freshman Holden Suzuki, team documenter. “There were so many brilliant ideas. I was inspired by what I saw.”
The team learned many lessons at the top competition, according to Junior Jazmyne Viloria, team documenting captain.
Students were able to view inventive robots, and connect and collaborate with teams worldwide. Also, they saw how other teams approached the engineering process, gleaning insights into different cultures and techniques.
“With these experiences, many team members now see how their skills can be used in STEM careers,” Viloria wrote in a news release.
Led by teachers Keith Imada and Neil Nakamura, advisers for Maui High robotics, Maui High’s team recently won Hawai’i Regionals and earned an invitation to the prestigious FRC championships in Houston, Texas, from April 20 to 23. FRC is the oldest and largest student robotics program in the world.
Maui High was one of 400 of the best robotics teams from 34 countries to make it to Worlds. Blue Thunder finished 37 out of 75 teams in its division, with a record of 5-5.
Team head driver Keithjan Quilal-lan, senior, said this year’s competition was different than a previous experience at Worlds.
“This year I knew we belonged, and we knew we could compete,” he said.
During the competition, all teams are randomly placed into a division. Blue Thunder was set in the Hopper Division to compete in 10 randomly assigned qualification matches.
Each qualification match challenges a team to work with two other FRC teams to strategize and perform together.
The format requires students to develop teamwork, strategy and leadership skills.
“Meeting teams from all over the world and working together gave me a new perspective on how if you’re all working towards the same goal, it’s easier to overcome obstacles,” said sophomore Norman Montehermoso, team operator.
The team members, advisors and mentors thanked people, including Jeff Bezos, Lauren Sanchez, Maui Resort Rentals, the Maui Economic Development Board and Mayor Michael Victorino, for donations and support, which helped them through their “astonishing journey.”
Now, Viloria said that the team is looking ahead at summer training and introducing younger, upcoming students to the robotics program.
After all, robotics has tons of rewards.
“It teaches them STEM skills, but it also teaches them real-world life skills, such as leadership, communication and teamwork,” she told Maui Now.