World Champions

Chandler Middle Schoolers Use Their STEM Skills to Win Big

Article by Michelle Talsma Everson

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Chandler Lifestyle

Earlier this summer, a group of stand-out Chandler middle school students and their coach, under the team name Overdrive 1696Z, earned major bragging rights by winning an international robotics competition.

The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation’s Live Remote VEX Robotics World Championship 2021 was recognized as the Largest Online Robot Championships record holder by Guinness World Records. During the live remote event, over 1,600 teams from 30 countries and 49 U.S. states competed in timed robotics competition matches with their custom-built robots. Chandler-based team Overdrive 1696Z won the competition’s middle school division and the excellence award for the science division.

Led by Pranil Kanderi, CTO and co-founder of Lotus Labs, the winning team consists of Aari and Sidharth Kanderi from Arizona College Prep, and Karan and Rohan Vallamshetla from Basha Accelerated Middle School. The students created the team and connected outside of their schools to practice.

“To have a successful team that can do well in competitions, you need to spend a lot of your free time practicing driving and building the robot,” Aari shares. “It can be a bit of a challenge to manage your school and robotics, but it is definitely worth it.”

“One lesson that I hope [other] students take away from our story is that if you work hard and are determined, you can do anything,” Karan adds. “Take us for example; we were an underdog team who only hoped of being top 25 in the world, but we worked hard to be our very best, and we were able to win the whole thing.”

Coach Kanderi shares that students learn a variety of useful skills from competing.

“Students will learn to work and perform under high-pressure situations,” he says. “They try to accomplish their goal within one minute [time allotted for each match in VEX IQ] without making any mistakes and with the added pressure of a live competition. As you go out to more of these competitions and repeat this, it becomes a sort of muscle memory, and they start to perform better… They also learned leadership, communication, and collaboration when working with the other team… Learning about engineering and specifics of gear ratios, etc., in robotics is just a cherry on the top.”

This fall, Sidharth and Rohan will be moving on to high school and a different team. Aari and Karan will continue to be a part of Overdrive 1696Z, possibly with some new members. RoboticsEducation.org/new-to-robotics

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