Mumbai teenage tech sensations set to sizzle in Sydney

Their robot will manoeuvre its way through a 12-foot maze, gather scattered objects, throw balls, and help them compete against 3.5 lakh students from across the world at the prestigious FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) in Australia this July. Winners get over $13.5 million in scholarships

At a workshop in Juhu, nine heads pour over a robot that can help them win a scholarship of over $13.5 million. They are preparing to compete against over 3,50,000 students from across the globe at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) to be held in Sydney, Australia from July 12-14.

(L-R, standing) Arvind Ranganathan, Amay Saxena, Anant Kandoi, Shrey Thurakiya, Mihir Shah; (L-R, sitting) Aaryaman Sen, Shubhankar Panda, Bijoy Shah. Raghav Ringhhia, the ninth member, is not in the picture.  Pics/Romita Chakraborty
(L-R, standing) Arvind Ranganathan, Amay Saxena, Anant Kandoi, Shrey Thurakiya, Mihir Shah; (L-R, sitting) Aaryaman Sen, Shubhankar Panda, Bijoy Shah. Raghav Ringhhia, the ninth member, is not in the picture.  Pics/Romita Chakraborty

The teenage participants Arvind Ranganathan (Ecole Mondiale World School), Mihir Shah (Dhirubhai Ambani International School), Amay Saxena (Dhirubhai Ambani International School), Shrey Thurakiya (Jamnabai Narsee School), Anant Kandoi (Jamnabai Narsee School), Bijoy Shah (Jamnabai Narsee School), Raghav Ringhhia (Utpal Sanghvi School), Shubhankar Panda (RN Podar School) and Aryaman Sen (Bombay Scottish School) are aged between 16-17.

(L-R, standing) Arvind Ranganathan, Amay Saxena, Anant Kandoi, Shrey Thurakiya, Mihir Shah; (L-R, sitting) Aaryaman Sen, Shubhankar Panda, Bijoy Shah. Raghav Ringhhia, the ninth member, is not in the picture

While another two teams will represent India in the US, Mumbai’s team, R Factor, along with another team from Pune, will represent the country Down Under. “We had to go through two rounds of elimination one regional and another national after which four teams were chosen.

The Robot that the Indian teens have builtThe Robot that the Indian teens have built

The other two teams from Rajkot and Coimbatore will participate in another tech challenge in the US,” said 17-year-old Mihir. The team had to get through several challenges to qualify for the FTC.

Most of them have already won the World Robot Olympiad and another competition called RoboCup Junior Robotics Soccer Competition where they had participated separately. It was here that they got together for FTC.

"Most of the other competitions required only three or four members; we have also played against each other in several competitions. We realised that for FTC, we can form a bigger team and work together by combining our knowledge and come up with something really creative,” added Mihir.

Since July last year, the team has created three different robots. "FTC comes up with a new challenge every year so the criteria for the regional and national challenges were different. We have almost finished our final robot,” said Arvind.

The Cascade Effect
In this year’s challenge, Cascade Effect, each team has to design and present a robot, which is not bigger than a foot-and-a-half from all sides and strong enough to pass through a 12-foot maze, following which it has to break a container holding balls of different sizes.

After this, the robot has to gather the scattered objects and throw each of those balls into various baskets, placed at different heights. “The robot must work automatically at some stages and with the help of a remote in others. We will present a journal explaining the design, business model, our sponsors, etc,” added Mihir.

For national competitions, the team had to raise Rs 3 lakh for registration, cost of body parts, assembling the robot, etc. “We had got in touch with eight-10 different sponsors who contributed amounts ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

For the international competition, we needed Rs 5 lakh. A sponsor was ready to cover the entire amount!” added Arvind. The challenge also expects participants to spread the word about robotics. “We visited schools and taught robotics. We trained students for a junior robotics competition too.

All of this has been documented and will be presented to the judges in Australia,” added Mihir. In spite of the lucrative prize money, the team prefers to focus on the competition. “Our aim is to present the best possible robot at the event. We will chalk our plans plans after the challenge is over,” added Arvind.

What is FTC?
Founded in the USA in 1989, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is an internationally acclaimed robotics programme that inspires a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics in youngsters. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organisation whose mission is to inspire young people to become leaders of the 21st century.

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