High School robot pilot reflects on Guam success in int’l competition

Pacific Daily News

Five Guam high school students recently returned from an international Olympics-style robotics competition in Mexico City, where they ranked 53 out of 168 country teams and won four out of eight games against worldwide competitors.

“We are a really young team compared to a lot of the other challengers. Most of our team was made up of incoming high school sophomores, and we were challenging a lot of older competitors, some of whom were college students,“ said Danny Morta, the pilot of the Team Guam robot and a senior at Simon Sanchez High School.

Big challenge of fundraising

Morta joined four other students from Okkodo High School and Simon Sanchez High School. The team prepared throughout the summer for the event. While the pilot and aspiring engineer is happy with the team’s accomplishment, he said more could have been done in preparation, with local support.

“One of the biggest challenges we had was fundraising. There were a lot of local companies that didn’t want to support us,” Morta said. “If we didn’t have to spend as much time fundraising, we could have spent more time improving the robot.”

Morta said he was able to apply his experience playing console video game systems to piloting the robot; and that the main challenge he faced was getting used to the sensitivity of the controls and learning the robot’s programming.

Grand Challenges of Engineering

Le FIRST Global Challenge is an annual competition designed to ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics among international youth, the organization’s website states.

“I’ve learned through FIRST that if we teach the world’s young people the common language of STEM, they’ll learn how to work together across cultural and religious differences,” said FIRST Global Founder Dean Kamen in a written statement on Monday.

Each competition is themed around 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering designed to help participants find innovative solutions to contemporary global issues.

Willingness to lend a hand

Team Guam also won the Bronze Clara Barton Award for Helping Hands, which they were nominated for by other country teams for their willingness to lend a hand.

“The award goes to teams that helped others, and they nominate you for the award,” Morta said. “Throughout the competition we helped other teams maintain their robots and even offered up suggestions and ideas to increase their efficiency. The competition has been a great way to make new friends from different countries.”

Morta said the experience has solidified his interests in STEM, and his plans to become an engineer.

“I’m grateful for this experience, and I’m hoping to compete in at least one more competition after I graduate,” he said.

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