Mumbai teens win tech challenge in Sydney

Three months after mid-day wrote about a team of nine teenagers from city-based schools representing India at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) to be held in Australia, the students have made the country proud.

Team R Factor won first place in the ‘INSPIRE AWARD’ championship in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), an international robotic competition that was held from July 12 to July 14 in Sydney, Australia
Team R Factor won first place in the ‘INSPIRE AWARD’ championship in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), an international robotic competition that was held from July 12 to July 14 in Sydney, Australia

Team R Factor won the coveted championship title at the challenge held in Sydney, for which over 35,000 students from across 32 countries had participated. “The participating teams were judged on various aspects, and the first one was battle of the robots, in which we didn’t fare very well. But thankfully, our design and strategy was really impressive.

In the second round, the top eight contenders had to choose their respective partners, and we were chosen as the partner for one of the top contenders, enabling us to participate in the quarter- and semi-finals,” said Mihir Shah, one of the participants from Dhirubhai Ambani International School.

He added that they were surprised to win the award, especially since this was their first attempt at the competition, whereas there are other teams that have been participating in the competition more than once.

The nine team members Arvind Ranganathan (École Mondiale World School), Amay Saxena and Mihir Shah (Dhirubhai Ambani Interna-tional School), Shrey Turakhia, Bijoy Shah, Anant Kandoi and Raghav Ringshia (Jamnabai Narsee School), Subhankar Panda (R N Podar High School) and Aaryaman Sen (Bombay Scottish, Mahim) now have the choice to opt for any of the 200 universities across the globe for scholarships, through this victory.

Scholarships worth over $13.5 million were up for grabs for winners under various categories. “Even though we had impressed the judges and were taking over points in most aspects, the overall win came as a surprise to us because we had not won the robot matches on the first day.

We had almost given up hope and at the very end, the announcement was made that our team had won the best contender award,” said Raghav Ringshia. The team mates added that the judges used match performance, observations made during interviews and presentation, the team’s well-made engineering journal, the robot design, community outreach, business strategies to bring about sponsorships as well as their performance in the pit area in determining the nominees, and, finally, the winner.

For their regional and national competitions, the team had to raise Rs 3 lakh for registration, cost of body parts, assembling the robot, etc. “For the previous rounds, we got in touch with 8-10 different sponsors who contributed amounts ranging from Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh, which covered all our costs.

For the international competition, we figured we’ll need around Rs 5 lakh; thankfully one sponsor was ready to cover the entire amount,” said Arvind Ranganathan. Apart from sponsors, the challenge also expects participants to reach out to the community and spread the word about robotics.

“Our social outreach programme was really appreciated, through which we not only managed to introduce many teenagers in the city to robotics, but also managed to conduct a competition for them and gave away scholarships to eight children, including a visually impaired student,” said Amay Saxena, another teammate.

Back in the city, these teenagers are now busy catching up on the studies that they missed out on before the competition, while others are also whetting through the profiles of universities spread across the globe. “About 200 universities are attached to this competition, so the scholarships will come through the universities.

We are excited that almost all top US universities are part of the programme and most of us are clear on where we want to go. We can get a scholarship of $10,000 to $40,000 a year from the universities, based on the profile,” added Raghav. Since the competition was held in Australia, some Australian universities are also offering full scholarships to them.

The competition
For the challenge, termed ‘Cascade Effect’ this year, each team had to design and present a robot not bigger than a foot-and-a-half from all sides and strong enough to pass through a maze of 12 feet, following which it had to break a container holding balls of different sizes.

After this, the robot had to gather the scattered objects and throw each of those balls into various baskets, placed at different heights. The challenge was to get a robot to work automatically at some stages, and with the help of a remote in other parts.

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