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Robotics Awarded at World Championship

Photo courtesy of Edwin Mendija

Molokai High School (MHS) robotics concluded their memorable season with a trip to Dallas, Texas to compete in the Vex Robotics World Championship. Of the 820 robotics teams from across the world, the MHS robotics team was honored with the 2024 Vex Community Award. Sponsored by Google, the award recognized the MHS team for their contributions towards supporting the larger Molokai robotics landscape.

Coach Edwin Mendija explained that judges were “really impressed, just knowing how limited in resources we are.”

Mendija and the MHS team had helped restart robotics on Molokai following COVID. Mendija explained that the MHS students helped Molokai elementary schools gear up for robotics competitions by providing parts, training and funding.

“The story of our island and how we managed to keep [robotics] going is how we won the award,” explained Mendija.

Molokai robotics is thriving. Along with the trip to Dallas, the robotics team competed in Japan earlier this year.

“We make a point to spread our story,” said Mendija, “so people know what we come from, the challenges we face, the things we need.”

In post-award interviews at the world championship, MHS students explained the impact robotics has had on their lives, and the larger Molokai community.

“Just being able to break out of my shell, when I first started doing robotics, I was pretty shy,” said MHS senior Aiko Kanemitsu.

Likewise, MHS senior Shazen Bush explained that robotics is all about “getting new experiences, and seeing things that we’re not used to on our island.”

At the championship, Molokai students carried the Hawaii flag in the parade of nations. Even though there were other teams from Hawaii, the Molokai students made up the vast majority of Native Hawaiians competing.

Now, with the school year and season wrapping up, MHS robotics is looking back on a breakout year, as well as planning for the future. Fundraising, recruiting new students and outreach are yearlong endeavors, explained Mendija. He’s already thinking of competition locations for next year, which could include places like Taiwan or Thailand. But for now, the robotics team can reflect on a year well spent.
“When I think about the thousands of miles we traveled this year,” said Mendija, “we definitely shot for the stars.”


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