When program adviser Glenn Lee first started Waialua Robotics several years ago, it was the first of its kind in the state. The program had modest beginnings the team would compete once a year on the Mainland. Nowadays the team is competing at the international level and winning.
Despite being a top competitor, the Waialua team remains committed to reaching out to other schools and makes time for community service. “We have evolved into something a lot larger,” Lee says. “So now we can promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in Hawaii. We mentor whoever wants our help. Over the years, we have had various schools visit our program. During the robotics build period, we help other teams build and give assistance.”
Lee has worked at Waialua High for 18 years. He began as a math and science teacher and now facilitates the robotics program and the learning center, and also serves as the grant coordinator.
Waialua Robotics also has a hand in a number of community service projects, including providing a large part of the manpower needed for the Dole Plantation Family Fun Day.
“We are always looking for ways that we can give back and share what STEM education is and have a fun place where kids can play games,” Lee says. At the event, the robotics team helps Dole set up and clean up, run games for the kids and work the food booths.
The next Dole Plantation Family Fun Day will take place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa.
For Lee, outreaching and expanding STEM programs is becoming increasingly important. “Other countries are now more competitive in those areas,” he says. “And I think there’s a national emphasis on STEM education now.” And Lee’s outreach is already seeing a big payoff before the robotics program, he says, few kids from the area ever went on to pursue further study in STEM fields. “Ever since we have started robotics, we have more students majoring in STEM areas,” he says.
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