Plucky students clinch robotics gold in Mexico

PUNE: While most of the country is focused on the exploits of its athletes at the Asiad in Indonesia, a group of intrepid students from the city pocketed gold at another international event.

The event — a robotics competition in Mexico — saw the five students clinch two gold medals. Making their win even more spectacular is the fact that their initiative was self-conceived and, perhaps more importantly, self-funded.

The students worked as a close-knit unit to create a robot on the theme of energy conservation to win plaudits at the ‘FIRST Global Challenge’ robotics olympics, conducted between August 16 and 18 in the North American country.

Calling themselves ‘Team Lunatechs’, the team comprised Vivek Shome, the team captain; Rayushka Sud, programmer, media, marketing, and spokesperson; Vaastav Varma, media and team driver; Anika Castellino, team driver and engineering; and Prerna Premchandra, design and engineering. Except for Varma, who studies at S M Choksey High School & Junior College, all the other students were from St Mary’s School.

On their own, the five students also raised Rs17.5 lakh as funds, the highest by any team at the competition. “We won the ‘helping hand’ gold medal for guiding some of the teams that faced issues in building robots or related things. We were awarded another gold medal, for maintaining safety standards and following the safety protocols,” Sud said.

But winning the competition was anything but easy. “We made it to the competition after four rounds of rigorous selection,” Sud said.

Sud said that the theme centred on the advantages of renewable energy. All the 194 participating teams had to compete in a game set on a 6x7m field, that had four power plants. The robots had to perform certain tasks to generate electricity from each plant.

The teams were given a stipulated time of two-and-half-minutes, with the side that generated the maximum energy taking the top prize. Team Lunatechs put up a commendable show, despite encountering a few technical glitches.

“The children faced and overcame challenges. So, on the whole, I feel that it was a good learning experience,” Sujata Mallic Kumar, St Mary’s principal, said.

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