Student robotics clubs from six high schools across Pohnpei State gathered earlier this month for the Micronesian capital’s first-ever Robo Day. Each team fielded a robot that they built, programmed and customized to compete on a customized course. Drivers raced their robots through timed rounds, battling to gain points by pushing, dropping, and throwing tennis balls into the other teams’ side of the court.
Students, teachers, principals and community members gathered to cheer on the students in the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School gymnasium, enthusiastically clapping and cheering for a point earned, or a strategic movement of the robots. After the dust settled on preliminary rounds, semifinals, and a nail-biting tie in the finals, Nanpei Memorial High School emerged as the Pohnpei Robo Day Champions. The newly-minted champions went home with a trophy and a first-place banner to display in their school. Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School’s team clinched the second-place win, with Pohnpei Island Central School earning third.
Even as students packed up their robots after a long day of competition, the expectation for another chance to exhibit their skills was evident, with many asking when they would get to test their abilities against teams from other Micronesian states.
Prior to this year, robotics was unknown by these students. Through a partnership with the Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the non-profit organization Habele provided equipment, training and support for the new Pohnpei Robo League. Initially developed in Yap, the Habele Robo league now includes students in Chuuk as well as Pohnpei, serving three of the four FSM states.
“We are incredibly proud of the students,” says Matt Coleman, Executive Director of Habele. “They are mastering the technologies of the future; and doing it with excitement and a hunger for more. It’s a privilege to be partnering with them. We can’t wait to see students in Kosrae enjoying the same opportunities.”
Earlier this year, a team of student instructors from Yap traveled to Chuuk and Pohnpei to help coach their peers in preparation for their first Robo Day competitions.
Established by former Peace Corps volunteers, Habele is a US-based nonprofit, advancing educational access and accomplishment across Micronesia.
Read more about this in the May 17, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.