Duluth robotics team to face Pacific competition

Eh? wanted to know why a high school robotics team from Hawaii was coming to Duluth to compete in a regional competition in early March, so we called Glenn Lee, the team’s coach.

“If you just stay in your own backyard, you’re never going to get better,” explained Lee, coach of “The Hawaiian Kids,” from Waialua, Hawaii, whose backyard is the North Shore of Oahu.

So Lee, 42, who co-founded the team 15 years ago, has taken his team to Washington, D.C., Houston, New York City, Salt Lake City and many other locations — to more different regionals, he said, than any other program in the world. They chose Duluth this year, he said, because they haven’t been to Minnesota before.

“As you can imagine, it’s quite expensive,” Lee said about all that traveling.
It will cost $1,100 per head to bring 24 kids and adults to Duluth, Lee said, and something in the neighborhood of $5,000 to ship the robot. The program’s overall budget is between $150,000 and $250,000 annually.

If this sounds like the invasion of the rich kids, it’s not. Waialua, in a century-old plantation community, is one of the poorest, smallest, most rural places in Hawaii, Lee said.
But Lee has gotten good at writing grant proposals, and the program has attracted a healthy share of corporate sponsors, he explained.

Among them is Dole, and because of that the team will be bringing fresh pineapples to share in Duluth.

They also might want to invest in some extra outerwear.

“The big talk in Hawaii right now is it’s too cold,” Lee said on Tuesday. “It’s 61.”