Of 48 teams that competed in the FIRST LEGO League State competition on April 6 in Delray Beach, a team of six fifth and sixth grade students from New Tampa, called Team TechnoWizards, took home first place and are on their way to competing for a national title.

The team consists of Pride Elementary fifth grade students Ayona Bagui, Dhruv Kulkarni, Naina Sethi and Nikhil Katiyar, along with sixth grade students Anika Prasad, who attends Benito Middle School, and Netra Vijay, who attends Williams Middle School.

The team has been working together for two years now, under the guidance and support of coach Sudhir Katiyar, who also Nikhil’s father, along with other parents of team members. Last year, Team TechnoWizards qualified to go to the State tournament, but didn’t place at that competition.

This year, they placed second at the Florida-West Coast Regional competition in February, which qualified them to compete at State. At the State tournament, their improved performance landed them the first-place prize, outmatching all of their competition.

“That happened because the team worked together in all aspects,” says Sudhir.

FIRST LEGO League teams use STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) as the basis for innovative learning and competition. FIRST also is an acronym that stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The theme for the 2018-19 season was “Into Orbit.”

The league uses LEGO Mindstorms robots as one part of its competition. Teams had to design, build and write programs to cause a robot to perform assigned tasks related to the theme.

More Than Just Robots

Robots are only part of the competition, though. 

Teams also have to complete and are judged on a project. For this year’s competition, the team members  researched numerous topics regarding problems in space and chose one that was most important to them — the well-being of astronauts.

They created a prototype to depict possible solutions to prevent health hazards to the astronauts, like loneliness.

“They are not judged just on the technical aspects” explains Sudhir. “They are also judged on the FIRST core values, such as how did you resolve issues and conflicts within the team, and how did you solve problems when your coach wasn’t around?”

FIRST’s core values include discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork, fun, gracious professionalism and cooperation.

Throughout the competition season, which runs concurrent with the school year, Team TechnoWizards also explored and served their community at the public library and in their schools, as well as for Feeding Tampa Bay, the Children’s Home Network, St. Joseph’s Hospital, American Heart Association and an aerospace museum. 

A field trip to NASA in Cape Canaveral gave the team a chance to meet with a real astronaut, and a trip to iFly Indoor Skydiving gave them a simulation of an experience in space. 

Thanks to its win at the State level, Team TechnoWizards was invited to attend the FIRST LEGO League Razorback Invitational, a 72-team championship tournament that includes national and international teams. 

It is being held this weekend on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville.

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