Drive through the back streets of Kaumana with your windows rolled down on any given Sunday and you might hear the shrill scream of an ’80s heavy metal electric guitar. It’s not a hair-band revival tour — it’s the sound of the Mechaneers robotics team doing what they love best: building robots.
“We always have music at our practices,” says Mechaneers coach Christian Wong, who built a robotics lab in his garage. Wong mentors the group of East Hawaii elementary school students. “It helps keep the boys focused and the environment fun.
“I used to play techno and reggae but being gearheads, they love the metal. Their favorite is AC/DC, nothing gets them pumped like ‘Thunderstruck.’ We play it every time they walk into a tournament.”
Throughout their first season entering competitions in the VEX IQ Robotics League, the Mechaneers’ love of metal has served them well as they designed and built award-winning robots to face off against teams from throughout the state. Regular season competition came to a close Jan. 13 during the state championships in Honolulu where they were one of 14 teams representing East Hawaii in the tournament.
“All the East Hawaii teams did really well, they held their own against some very big, well-funded teams,” Wong said. Out of 96 teams, several from the Big Island earned spots in the state finals.
Wong credits the success of the local teams to the dedication of the many teachers and mentors within the community.
The Mechaneers, PunaTechs and LunaTechs go back to the drawing board and spend the next three months preparing to represent Hawaii at the U.S. Open Championships April 2-4 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Wong invites the community to follow their progress on Instagram and support them through their GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/mechaneers-travel-fund to help cover the costs of the trip.
Schools or organizations that would like to start a VEX Robotics team to compete in the 2018 season can contact Art Kimura at email@example.com.
How they fared
The following East Hawaii teams competed at the Hawaii State VEX IQ Championships. The state tournament was sponsored by Hawaiian Electric. The East Hawaii leagues were sponsored by the Hawaii Community Foundation THINK Fund.
Elementary School Division (48 teams)
St. Joseph School (RoboJoe X), 3rd place
Mechaneers, 7th place
Keaau Elementary School (LunaTechs A), 8th place
St. Joseph School (RoboJoe Z), 38th place
Middle School Division (48 teams)
Volcano School of Arts and Sciences (The Robotics Team), 4th place
Volcano School of Arts and Sciences (Golden Jaguars), 21st place
Hilo Intermediate School (HSR), 22nd place
Keaau Elementary School (LunaTechs B), 26th place
Keaau Middle School (PunaTechs B), 28th place
Waiakea Intermediate School (Titans A), 37th place
Waiakea Intermediate School (Titans C), 38th place
Acrobots, 44th place
Girl Scout Troop 254, 45th place
Keaau Middle School (PunaTechs A), 39th
Mechaneers, Build Award