The 6th Annual Hawaii FIRST LEGO League Championships were held on Saturday, Dec 11, 2010 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena. The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) introduces younger students to real world engineering challenges by building LEGO based robots that complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. This year's theme was medical related with challenges simulating a rapid blood screening, artery stent, cardiac missions, brain missions, bionic eyes, etc. Teams must design, build, test and program an autonomous robot to accomplish the Challenge Mission on the playing field. The game is based on a point system and each team has three qualifying rounds. Each round is 2:30 minutes long. In the video students from Pauoa Elementary School program their robot to perform predefined tasks. Once activated the robot is autonomous, functioning without remote controls. Each team is allowed only two members at the playing field at a time although they can switch out by tagging one of their members. Aaron Dengler, science teacher at Punahou School told me that FLL is less about robotics and more about engineering and team work. Each of the robot kits include a controller, sensors, mechanics and power. Bringing it all together is an engineering task. In addition to the design, testing and performance, each team has to research the theme and do a presentation to a panel of judges. Months of planning and activities lead up to the FLL Championship. I was quite impressed with the enthusiasm each of these young teams demonstrated and felt reassured that this program is an excellent feeder into futures in science and technology.
This story ran in the Star Advertiser on Friday and given my fascination with ships and planes I had to see if the Kaiyu Maru was still docked at Aloha Tower. On my morning run I detoured to Aloha Tower Marketplace and sure enough it was still there. My plan was to try and get a tour of the ship but that did not pan out. Trying to board a foreign ship at the last minute, literally hours before they leave is futile. But I did get to meet the Roosevelt High School students, Krista Ann Lee and Ronald Li along with their teacher Jennifer Williams as they made their last minute foray into town to buy a case of diet Coke. The threesome are on their way to Fukuoka, a 17 day trip on the training vessel Kaiyu Maru. They, along with 60 other Japan students will journey the western Pacific on the 223 foot vessel. Judging from their blog post, the first day at sea was a struggle with seasickness. It will be interesting to follow along with their adventure on the high sea. Stay tuned as I have asked Jennifer and her students to join us on Bytemarks Cafe on Dec 15th to share with us their once in a lifetime experience.
Maybe I would have been a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon if summer sessions like this were available back in my day. Pacific Center for Environmental Studies (PaCES) is a six-week intensive course for high school juniors and seniors held at Windward Community College. This past Tuesday, I had a chance to spend an hour observing the class as they processed DNA samples. David Krupp and Rob Hutchison conduct the program that included field trips to Coconut Island, collecting water samples around coral reefs and studying genomics. The program is concludes with a symposium where students present their research findings. David and Rob explain that the course is not about lectures and book readings. It's about problem solving and creative thinking. The exercise I saw had the students taking their DNA samples, sourced originally from water around healthy coral and stressed coral, and extracting key segments. The DNA was mixed with a marker solution to be then placed in a gel electrophoresis device. The photo above shows the DNA separated out in the gel, based on the relative weigh density of the DNA. Pretty cool stuff. The program consists of about 20-25 students along with mentors from previous years. Both David and Rob will be joining us on the radio (KIPO 89.3FM) this coming Wed. July 7th at which time we'll get to talk to them in more detail about the program, what students learn from it and how in some cases is pivotal in setting a future course for these students. Hope you will join us in the conversation.