Molokai school robotics team wins rookie award at Texas event

WAILUKU, Maui— A Hawaii high school has been recognized with an award in its first appearance at an international robotics competition.

The Molokai High School robotics team won the Hopper-Turing Division Rookie Inspiration Award at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Championship in Houston, The Maui News reported Monday.

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Molokai’s seven-member “Team 7724” had been invited, but did not plan on attending because of the cost. Registration for the world championship was $5,000 and travel and lodging costs can run $15,000 to $20,000 per team.

The team received unexpected financial support from the community and a fellow robotics team at ‘Iolani School in Honolulu, which donated a $5,000 NASA grant and started a GoFundMe page for Molokai that raised $13,075.

“We definitely originally weren’t going to go, even if we qualified,” Molokai robotics teacher Edwin Mendija said. “But thanks to mainly ‘Iolani School and all of our generous support, we were able to make it out there.”

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The Houston tournament featured 400 teams.

After going 1-5 in the first matches, the Molokai team recovered and won four straight with the help of alliances with other teams, Mendija said.

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