Our Islands, Our Future

Maui High School’s robotic team, Blue Thunder, is true to its mission to inspire and challenge a new generation to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Since Blue Thunder’s rookie year in 2008, the team has had many accomplishments. “Robotics isn’t just about the robot,” said Maui High sophomore, Carlos Cortez. “It is about the team, the people, the bond and the commitment. It is about community.”

Cortez explained, “The program is split up into three departments, builders, programmers, and documenters. Builders design and create the robot based on the teams’ ideas. Each builder chooses a specialty such as welding or machining− learning specific skills to piece together our robot. Our programmers then bring the robot to life with their code. Using JAVA, the department tackles each specific mechanism. Connecting new and old team members allows students to learn from their peers and practice communication skills. Documenters are the community relations and communications of the team. They keep in contact with sponsors and other robotics teams, update social media, create promotional materials for the team, and use videography and photography to document the teams engineering process.”

The Blue Thunder team travels to two regional competitions every year. At the Hawaii Regional on Oahu, team members have the opportunity to meet fellow robotics enthusiasts from Hawaii as well as Guam, Australia, Japan, China, and Taipei. “We get to see many diverse teams with the same passions we have,” said Cortex. “They work hard and try to improve themselves every day, just like we do. It’s awesome being with teams from other countries doing the one thing we love and share− robotics.”

“None of these experiences would have happened without the help of the Maui Economic Development Board’s Ke Alahele Education Fund,” said Maui High School robotics teacher Keith Imada. An award-winning robotics educator, Imada has led Maui High teams to regional competitions for many years. “The Fund helps pay for hotel, transportation, airfare, competition fees, and shipping,” he said. “It also gives students an opportunity to be exposed to numerous STEM-related ideas.”

When we travel, it is interesting to see another team’s thought process and designs. Language barriers are broken down by the passion for robotics.

Carlos Cortez, Maui High School sophomore