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Mules’ Robotics Team Takes State Title

Tough as a mule doesn’t just refer to physical strength. Mules also are smart, as Leilehua High School demonstrated in its recent FIRST Robotics team victory over perennial power Waialua High.

With this victory, Leilehua, which teamed with Baldwin and Kalani, earned a spot in this week’s FIRST Robotics Championships in St. Louis, Mo. Waialua was paired with Punahou and Sacred Hearts Academy.

“We, of course, didn’t know what to expect, and we certainly did not expect winning the competition and going to the nationals,” said coach Harmony Paz, who along with coaches Chris Kawabata and Ian Yoneshige led the second-year program to victory. “It’s going to be an amazing experience for our students to be at what is known as the ultimate in robotics competitions.”

Pride from the come-from-behind victory wasn’t limited to competitors, said principal Aloha Coleman. “This school and the community of Wahiawa are overflowing with pride over our students’ accomplishments at the robotics competition.

“The way they came back during the competition to place third before the finals, then sweep to victory … those are testaments to the time and dedication our students and teacher have put into pushing their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills beyond their imagination.”

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Competition is a multinational competition that pairs students with industry professionals to solve an engineering design problem in an intense, creative atmosphere.

Leilehua, Baldwin and Kalani will be joined by three other Hawaii public schools – Kealakehe, Waialua and Hilo High School.

Team Leilehua is made up of Ryanne Bateman, Bradley Beaudry, Jay-Ryan Digap, Matthew Edgmon, Kaleb Greenly, Bruyson Markham, Justin Pang and Paulina Reyes.