Tigers Represent In The FIRST Robotics World Championship

Alexandria Buchanan, editor

In late March, the McKinley High School robotics team, Team 368 Kika Mana, competed in the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition at Stan Sheriff Arena. The team made it as finalists and won the Rockwell Innovation in Control Award which qualified them to the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Houston, Texas from April 18-21.

This year, more than 91,000 students on 3,660 teams from 27 countries competed. Teams competed against their opponents in an 8-bit video game themed challenge.

All teams had to play in autonomous and teleoperated periods to get the highest score and at the end of the match, defeat the game’s “boss,” or villain and win the game. Team 368 became subdivision finalists, ranking 19 out of 68.

Robotics mentor Amber Imai-Hong became a student mentor for Team 368, and knows how hard the team works every season.

“During build season, we spend countless hours working to build the robot and field elements,” Imai-Hong said. “I am very proud that we had such a great team of students and mentors and we were able to build a good robot.”

The team reached the world championship last year as well, and made it to the semifinals. The hours of hard work and dedication put in during school days and weekends helped them improve.

Junior Ariel Thepsenavong is Team 368’s captain, and she confirms that lots of time was spent in creating this robot.

“Each of us pour in at least 24 hours a week, and some of us even dedicate 40+ hours. Putting so much time in this organization means that you need to balance other parts of your life too, such as your friends, family, and schoolwork,” Thepsenavong said. “It’s worth it though, since if you’re interested in engineering, you could learn valuable skills that you may need in the future.”

Sophomore Jessica Nagasako is co-captain of Team 368. This was her first time at the world championship, and she said it was a great experience.

“It felt pretty amazing,” said Nagasako. “Playing on the world stage brought out my Tiger pride and honor.”

The team did well, but naturally there was some doubt about competing against so many other teams. However, that didn’t stop them as they pushed through to make it to the finals.

“To be honest, I felt pretty afraid, competing against so many teams who have done much better than us yet we still made it to finals in our division,” Sophomore Travis Salyphone, the team’s Technician said. “Other than that, I also felt proud, helping our team make it that far into the competition.”

Just like any team, the many hours spent together created a bond between the members. The group considers each other a second family.

“We spend so much time with each other that we really do become like a family.” Senior Kenny Son, Team 368’s driver said. “Just a really dysfunctional one.”

Junior Aulani Eschelbach is the robotic team’s coach and believes the team has a family like bond as well. If others want to join, they should be able to have fun, but know when work needs to get done.

“(You should) be able to commit, meet your weekly hours and exceed them, and just have fun but be able to work when it’s needed,” Eschelbach said. “If you don’t enjoy it, it may seem like a lot of work, but in my opinion it’s really worth the hours that we put in.”

If you are interested in joining the robotics team, they are always open to new members. It is recommended for those who have a passion for engineering, and willing to learn about the different aspects from machining to coding. If you have any questions or you want to learn more, go to J5 for more information.