Our Islands, Our Future

Earlier this month, 27 robotics teams competed in the FIRST Lego League (FLL) 2010 Maui District Tournament. It was a fun, challenging, and exciting event for more than 300 students as well as teachers, advisers, and parents at the Maui High School Gymnasium.

It was just five years ago that MEDB’s Women in Technology program made grants to two Central Maui 4-H robotics teams—the Bunnies and the Ladybugs—to battle it out in the first Maui FLL qualifier in a pilot project funded by the USDA. The Bunnies became the Maui Girls and the 4-H club, with the same leaders, are still going strong, winning the Robot Performance award this month and qualifying for the State FLL Championships next month.

Since those early days, MEDB has leveraged further funding and resources from USDA, the Department of Education, the Air Force Research Labs (AFRL), and established the Ke Alahele Education Fund to support robotics programs across the County, both by direct funding and provision of equipment and computers. The Ke Alahele Fund is supported, in turn, by many businesses, non-profits, and individuals seeking to develop the STEM skill base of Maui’s students.

In 2010, MEDB estimates it has already directed approximately $150,000 to robotics programs, events, and training, in support of FIRST Lego League, VEX robotics, Botball, and FIRST robotics.

“The rapid growth in robotics participation and student proficiency is highly gratifying,” observes Leslie Wilkins, Program Director for Women in Technology. “It validates and confirms the importance of our community investment and commitment over the last few years. It bodes very well for our future.”