RIMPAC participants team with students in robotics competition

(Via Ho’okele News)

U.S. Navy RIMPAC Sailors and U.S. Coast Guard representatives joined Hawaii high school robotics teams at the RIMPAC 2014 VEX Robotics Competition. Photo courtesy of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Public Affairs


U.S. Navy Sailors and Coast Guardsmen from ships participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014 joined nine Hawaii high school robotics teams in the first RIMPAC 2014 VEX Robotics competition held July 3 and 5 at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Industrial Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF). The event was organized and sponsored by PHNSY&IMF with support from U.S. Pacific Fleet and the Office of Naval Research.

More than 20 Sailors and Coast Guardsmen from ships based in mainland ports took part in the competition and were randomly assigned to join the robotics teams. Under the students’ instruction and encouragement, the service members operated remotely-controlled machines that were designed and built by the robotics teams specifically to stack building blocks into a tower.

No robotics experience was required to be a volunteer, said James Ibanez, the shipyard’s science, technology, engineering and math and workforce development liaison.

“We were looking for RIMPAC participants with an interest in teaming with local Hawaii students to exchange knowledge in a fun way,” he said.

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Thomson Butcher of USCG Cutter Waesche (WMSL 751) was one of three Coast Guard volunteers and said the event was a valuable opportunity for students to learn about real world applications of robotics concepts.

“This was a great interaction,” he said. “I deal with servos and motors in my daily job, so this is good for them to interact with someone who handles it in a real world situation and compare it to what they do in these competitions.”

“They have been asking us what we do in the military, and I feel like they’re curious about our jobs just as we are interested in their knowledge of robotics,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Jennifer Dickson of USS Rushmore (LSD 47).

The robotics teams of seven public high schools (Mililani, Waialua, Farrington, Kalani, Pearl City, McKinley and Maui’s Baldwin High School) and two private schools (Sacred Heart Academy and Punahou School ) welcomed the opportunity to put their newly built robots to the test and learn about the Navy and the RIMPAC exercise.

Yoshio Yoshizumi, a member of the winning team representing Waialua High School, said the competition was a “fun experience for me, because usually my coach teaches me and now I’m coaching the Navy. The Sailors taught me some things about mechanical and electrical systems. They shared their knowledge with me, and I shared what I know about robotics.”

While this event was the first robotics competition to be held at PHNSY&IMF and the first of its kind associated with the RIMPAC exercise, the shipyard has been working with Hawaii robotics since 2008, said Ibanez.

“We have a strong tradition of fostering interest and skills in STEM and robotics because, as Hawaii’s largest industrial employer, it’s in the interest of Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard to help build a future work force by encouraging local students to become involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Ibanez said.

In addition to the robotics competition, the students and their team chaperones received a shipyard brief and tours of the shipyard’s controlled industrial area and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).

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