Four years of robotics lessons have turned Maui High School senior Cheska Liwag into a wanna-be engineer armed with lifelong skills. “It was a good experience,” Liwag said after returning from the FIRST Robotics regional contest in Long Beach, California. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology.” Maui High had the best record of the three Hawaii teams competing during spring break 2013. The team known as #2443 Blue Thunder won 11 matches and reached the semifinals in a contest featuring 65 high school teams, including two others from Hawaii.
The robotics team spent six weeks prior to the competition building a 2-1/2-foot robot mostly from metal and completing it just hours before the regional contest opened. “I was kind of surprised. I didn’t think we were going to do as well,” she said. Liwag joined the Maui High robotics club as a freshman and worked to become a leader on this year’s design team and then a captain guiding the drivers of the robot designed to throw frisbees and climb a 90-inch-high pyramid at a 68-degree angle. ““Being on the robotics team, I learned a lot of life skills like teamwork and communication, skills that we’ll use even outside of school,” Liwag said.
Liwag said she sees herself after graduation enrolling at the University of Hawaii Maui College and then transferring to UH Manoa to earn a bachelor’s in engineering. She said the 30-member robotics club this year has been a family away from home. “It gave me this safety of another family and people I could talk to anytime about anything,” she said. The Maui High robotics team sought public support to pay for its project and travel expenses for the 10 members traveling to the regional competion. Maui Economic Development Board awarded its robotics team a $5,000 grant from the Ke Alahele Education Fund.