Building Citizens and Programming a Lifestyle through Robotics

Nanogurus, FTC team #4347 showcase their technological endeavors

NanoGurus, Team #4347, the flagship robotics team of NanoGurus Robotics, is in the midst of an extremely successful championship season

PARSIPPANY — NanoGurus, Team #4347, the flagship robotics team of NanoGurus Robotics, is in the midst of an extremely successful championship season.

The FIRST Tech Challenge is a competition where teams design, build, and program an autonomous and driver-operated robot that must perform a series of tasks in a short two and a half minute period. It is a sporting event like no other, and the hardest fun on the face of earth.

The team competed at the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania State Championships, winning the top and most prestigious award in New York, The Inspire Award, and the Winning Alliance in the Robotics Tournament in New Jersey, earning their spot at the FTC Super Regional in Scranton, Pennsylvania and they are now going to World Championship in April.

In addition to helping them learn the hard skills of building and programming, coaches Shikha and Anil Saxena have opened their home to instilling essential life skills such as organization, problem solving and teamwork in these young members. The NanoGurus are supported by generous sponsors and mentors and mark their tenth successful year of robots this season!

This year’s team members include Yash Patel and Sabarish Selvarajan, both seniors at Parsippany High School, Mayank Govilla and Sravan Jayanthi, sophomores at the Academy for Mathematics Science and Engineering at Morris Hills High School, Siddarth Swaminathan, Parsippany Hills High School, rookie members Ria Balli is a freshman at The Academy of Mathematics Science and Engineering, and Jeffrey Zhang, an eighth grader at Briarhill Middle School.

Each year FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) announces a new FTC challenge an teams around the world design, build and program their robots to compete. Velocity Vortex, this year’s challenge calls for robots score points by claiming beacons, scoring balls into a five foot high goal, and lifting a large yoga ball up over seventy inches and capping it on the goal. This season has definitely proved itself to be an intense and thrilling journey for the NanoGurus. From failed designs to 3D printed custom pieces, the NanoGurus have built an extraordinary robot that can do a vast range of tasks. Members have been able to  build and program awesome robots and showcase their work at their public outreaches and put their efforts to the test at rigorous competitions.

Team members share their competition experience as once in a lifetime. “The most exciting part of the entire experience is when we go to the competitions and see so many different ways to do the same thing. It is  a lot of fun making friends with other teams, learn from them and contribute towards collective learning. This is my last year of FTC, I am going to miss FTC a lot when I go to college,” said Yash, who plans to major in Robotics Engineering.

Ria Balli commented, “I have learned to efficiently manage my time and think intricately. As a result of my participation in FTC, my definition of fun has changed from mindless activities to thinking and working hard!”

Siddharth said “One of the great things that come with FTC is the opportunity of being able to apply math and science that are being learned in school to something hand-on.”

Mayank Govilla commented, “I never thought I will be able to teach myself all the cool things I have been able to before I joined FTC. It is super exciting to be able to take charge of my own learning and see it tested on the robots!” 

Mayank Govilla demonstrating how the game is played

The NanoGurus is always looking for new parent coaches and mentors to extend more students this fun learning FIRST experience! This season, the team established eight new FIRST Lego League teams, all of which are coached by parents, and mentored by experienced members of this flagship team. New teams start with a training session, followed by mentoring throughout the competition season.

Kavitha, mother of member Siddharth who also coaches a middle school FLL team said that “Coach Shikha takes extra efforts to  bring out the best from the kids at the same time gives an opportunity to identify the limitations and improve upon them. Overall this is the place for the young minds  to learn and develop important life skills and not limited to communication, organization, presentation skills to  help them achieve their dreams and goals. We are proud to be part of Nanogurus.”

Mona Govilla, mother of Mayank remarked “Being an FTC parent for the last three years has opened new avenues in our minds as parents. It is exhilarating to see the kids work together as a team learning incredible and much needed life lessons.”

Mayank Govilla demonstrating how the game is played

All this cannot be done without the support of the community sponsors who take active interest in the development of their future workforce.

Evonik Industries has been the oldest sponsors of the NanoGurus and contribute greatly towards the sustainability of the team, making a huge impact on the competition robotics in the community.

Department of Defence has been sponsoring the team for a while and the team is very grateful to the opportunity to learn professional engineering practices from Thomas Shadis who is the Chief of the Directed Energy and Non-Lethal Branch at Picatinny Arsenal. The team recently had the rare chance to visit Picatinny’s Innovation Labs, Long Range Artillery, and the Additive Manufacturing facilities. Division.

The team is grateful for the kind contributions from  Agadia Systems, H2M Architects, CDMSmith, Subway, RxC International, Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala &Taylor Attorney at Law and Wing Zone. 

Coach Shikha Saxena said, “We believe that our most important job as coaches is to encourage personal growth and development of each team member. The old saying “it needs a village to raise a child” holds true more than before and we are making that village for our children by constantly growing our robotics community in the Par-Troy school district and beyond. In addition to gain competency in robotics and technology, our goal is to help each of our team member become a problem solver who is caring, responsible, and a contributing member of the society.”

NanoGurus Robotics is a non profit organization serving the Par-Troy school district students, offering them a platform to develop passion in technology and robotics. Geared towards engaging k-12 students in using technology productively, the organization is completely run by volunteers who mentor and coach teams. Their motto “Building Robots. Building Character.” is guided by the NanoGurus philosophy of the Strength Based Model, helping the students learn to quantify both action-oriented and cognitive strengths such as hard work, organization, honesty, responsibility and such to understand the level of their own strengths and take charge of their own learning. The coaches open their homes for students as practice fields to prepare for competitions. Experienced members mentor new members and new coaches do not need knowledge of robotics. With requirements of documenting progress, holding public outreaches, development and execution of a business plan for sustainability, the activity is not limited to students interested in STEM.

Next step: The team is going to St. Louis Missouri for World Championship from April 25 to April 29.