A team of students and educators from Pohnpei broke from summer relaxation to share their enthusiasm for high school robotics with peers in Chuuk.

Three students and two educators from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School (OLMCHS) travelled to Chuuk to lead a four-day robotics workshop. Over the course of the training, students from public and private high schools across Chuuk partnered with the Pohnpei team to build, operate and compete their very own robots. For Weipat High School, located in Chuuk’s Northwest Islands, this represented the school’s first hands-on interaction with the new technology.

The building workshop was sponsored by Habele, a US non-profit that designed and implemented a robotics league extending across all four states of the FSM. OLMCHS was one of the first schools in Pohnpei to join in the Robo League in 2018, and has hosted annual Robo Day competitions, in which participating high schools gather to compete for the title of Pohnpei Robo Day Champions. Chuuk Department of Education generously made the Chuuk High School gymnasium available for the week, as well as providing food and encouragement for all the participants.

Teams of all experience levels at the training began with an unassembled robotics kit, and with the help of the team from Pohnpei, worked through each of the parts and their functions. Surrounded by piles of metal and electronic components, each school team tweaked and troubleshot their way to a functioning robot. While beginning students have clear instructions to follow, experimenting and exploring with the equipment is encouraged.

“Creative problem solving is key here,” said Matt Coleman, Habele’s Director of Operations. “Students learn to analyze a challenge, and use the parts they have on hand to resolve it. It is an important skill to develop for any vocation.”

After completing their first robotics build, teams worked on controlling the robots through a variety of simple tasks. As the workshop progressed, challenges became more complex. The culmination of the training was a series of competitive events to test robotics dexterity and function for points. Prior to the final competition, students were encouraged by Dr. Margarita Cholymay, Director of Chuuk Department of Education, who praised them for learning new skills, and urged them to take advantage of the educational opportunities provided. The team from Saruman Chuuk Academy won first place in the competition, with Xavier High School coming in second, and Weipat High School taking third. All teams demonstrated tremendous growth over the course of the training. Students will return to their schools with a working robot, and enthusiasm to share what they learned with their peers.

“Peer to peer training encourages active participation and engagement among learners,” said Russell Figueras, Principal of OLMCHS, and one of the trainers for the workshop. “When students are involved in teaching their peers, they become more invested in the learning process and more likely to grasp and retain the information. This was an awesome learning experience for our students.”

The training workshop is the last Habele-sponsored robotics event in Chuuk. The US nonprofit is sunsetting its involvement in high school robotics across the FSM after over a decade, but hopes robotics education evolves further through support from FSM national and state governments.

Habele will continue to offer tuition scholarships to students attending private elementary and high schools in the FSM, donations to schools and libraries, direct monthly book deliveries to children under the age of five (“Young Island Readers”), and donations of tools to traditional carvers and weavers.

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