Photo: Volunteers Joel Paye and Tayeh Madjeska give an introduction on the VEX IQ robot kits to elementary school students during the first RISE robotics class on Nov. 13.

Keaukaha’s first afterschool robotics program officially launched on Nov. 13, giving local elementary school students the chance to build, program and operate their very own robots.

The new program is part of the RISE (Revealing Individual Strength for Excellence) program, and was born through a collaborative effort between PISCES’ Program Director Rodrigo Romo, KOYD (Keaukaha One Youth Development) and PUEO (Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities) President Keahi Warfield, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Vulcan Robotics Team Lead Marc Roberts. RISE is an afterschool initiative serving underprivileged Native Hawaiian children between the ages of 8 and 18.

HawCC student Tayeh Madjeska leads Keaukaha students through the instruction manuals of a VEX IQ robotics kit.

HawCC student Tayeh Madjeska leads Keaukaha students through the initial instructions of building a robot.

“We are very proud of this achievement and hope to see it grow into a sustainable program that will provide Hawaiian kids with an opportunity to explore the world of robotics,” said PISCES Program Director Rodrigo Romo.

The inaugural program was attended by five Keaukaha area students. Led by two college student volunteers—Joel Paye of UH Hilo and Tayeh Madjeska of Hawaii Community College—the students sat in groups on a large floor mat, sifting through the colorful building blocks and instructions of a standardized robotics kit called “VEX IQ.”

VEX IQ kits provide everything a student needs to build and program a competition-ready robot. The kits were provided by a grant from the Thirty Meter Telescope’s THINK fund.

RISE is part of a long-term effort to provide Hawaii youth with more career and education opportunities on-island. Many students leave Hawaii upon graduation to pursue a wider range of opportunities in both career and educational pursuits.

KOYD President Keahi Warfield believes culture, science and technology can work together to create a better future for the community. His efforts at RISE, KOYD and PUEO align closely with PISCES’ goal to provide more STEM opportunities to local youth and improve their chances of success.