Opinion Editorial: Webber: Help Yap go to robotics competition
- Category: Opinion
- Published: Thursday, 27 April 2017 07:39
- Written by Lee P. Webber
- Hits: 1950
Lee P. Webber, for PDN
reprinted with permission
When was the last time you heard about the Yap Robotics team? The Yap Robotics team you say? The only thing we know about Yap is stone money, manta rays and grass skirts!
The Habele Outer Island Education Fund is a U.S.-based 501(c)3 nonprofit, started by former Peace Corps Volunteers, that works across the freely associated states of Micronesia. It sponsored the first Robotics League on Yap, and the island has been invited to attend a global robotics competition in Washington, D.C., this summer.
The first Robotics Day on Yap was held in 2012, in Kolonia. It was a heavily advertised, open-air public event. Local residents described the event as unprecedented. Students and schools were highly enthusiastic.
In 2013, students from Chaminade High School in California provided used parts to refresh and expand the Yap teams' kits. Habele paid for, and coordinated, delivery. Additional new parts were purchased and provided by Habele. Interest in the teams among schools doubled.
Then in 2014, the third annual Yap Robo Day saw two private schools field two teams each in elimination-style competition. More than half of Habele Tuition Scholarship recipients at Yap Catholic and Yap SDA are now robotics team participants.
In March of this year, former admiral and congressman Joe Sestak contacted Habele a week before the registration deadline for the First Global, an ambitious 150-nation high school robotics competition in D.C. this coming July.
According to Neil Mellen, "This is something of a dog-has-caught-the-bus scenario for us, as the cost of equipping and sending the team is close to the entire annual budget of Habele.”
Mellen wrote to me asking for advice.
The cost to send three young Micronesians to the competition is about $16,000, half of which is airfare. Details of the team and event can be found at http://habele.blogspot. com/2017/03/from-stone-money-to-stem-olympians.html. Their online fund drive is at https://www.gofundme.com/YapRobo.
We should be proud of these kids, who’ve been at it since 2011, and also proud of the league and their only current private non-government supporter, Matson, and its monetary and equipment donations.
According to Mellen, "The Pacific is virtually unrepresented in the competition because of the lack of high school robotics in the western and central Pacific (regions).”
Though switching to an entirely new type of robot and mastering the bots will take enormous commitment from Yap Catholic High School, winners of the 2016 Yap Robo Day, they agreed to field a three-student team.
Last month, according to Mellen, "Habele and Yap Catholic developed a bare-bones $16,000 budget plan to equip, train and send the team and a single mentor, with half of those costs comprised in airline tickets. Initial fundraising consists of selling cold coconuts at public events on Yap, as well as sale of T-shirts with Robo League logos. Total projected budget of $16,000 is three-fourths of Habele’s annual 2016 budget for all its programs, which include scholarships and literacy efforts.”
This is a great opportunity for these young Micronesian students. Let's not allow Habele and the students to shoulder this opportunity alone.
Show your support by contributing to their GoFundMe campaign. Better yet, convince someone to cover their tickets!
Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of the Pacific Daily News, and has been a resident of Guam since 1968.