Above: Volunteers Joel Paye and Tayeh Madjeska introduce VEX IQ robotics kits to elementary students at the first RISE robotics class on Nov. 13.

Keaukaha’s first after-school robotics program has officially launched, giving local elementary students the chance to build, program and operate their very own robots.

The program is part of the RISE (Revealing Individual Strength for Excellence) program, and was born through a collaboration 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.

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 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 mat, sifting through the colorful plastic pieces and instruction manuals of the standardized VEX IQ robotics kit. VEX 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 an after-school initiative serving underprivileged Native Hawaiian children between the ages of 8 and 18. The organization is part of a larger effort to provide Hawaii youth with more career and education opportunities on-island. Due to a lack of options at home, many students leave Hawaii upon graduation to pursue a wider range of opportunities in both career and educational pursuits.

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’ mission to offer STEM opportunities to youth and improve their chances of success.