Team members from Nova and Robo Chicken Gator Flys of Papayaland have some fun pitting their robots against one another. In competition the robots don't battle but that didn't stop these kids from having some fun. Village Life photo by Noel Stack

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Robotics teams head to St. Louis

By From page A1 | April 18, 2012

What does it take to guide a bowling ball? What’s needed to lift a crate?

Two local high school robotics teams have put a lot of thought into these tasks and now their efforts will take them to the First Tech Challenge World Championship April 25-28 in St. Louis, Mo.

Nova teammates Jack Tao, Alex Khoury, Josiah Intia, Millun and Rohun Atluri of Vista Del Lago High School, Jamin Sagay of Jesuit High School and Nathan Somavarapu and Uma Dinganka of Oak Ridge High School won the Inspire Award at the Northern Nevada FTC Championship tournament in Feburary, earning the team its trip to the championship, where 128 teams will compete. Not bad for a team that’s only existed for a year. The students are coached by Srini Atluri, an Intel engineer.

“I think it will be an extremely interesting experience … seeing all the different designs everyone comes up with,” said Nathan, 17. “It takes it to a whole new level.”

Nathan has family competition on Robo Chicken Gator Flys of Papayaland. His brother Kaythan Somavarapu is on the team with Ryan McLaughlin and Amey Natu of Folsom High School and Alex Krueger, Shivani Sharma, Sumega Mandadi and Ben and Thomas Tucker of Oak Ridge High School. They won their trip by winning the Las Vegas Regional Qualifying Tournament in January.

“It’s just a really exciting opportunity and it doesn’t come around too often,” said Shivani, 17.

She and her teammates, coached by Intel engineer Brian Tucker, have worked together for five years. They’ve built four robots together. “They’ve all worked but the we thought of a better idea,” Shivani explained. The team often tests two robots at the same time and then takes the better robot to competitions.

The competitions include two parts: autonomous operation and teleoperation.

The autonomous part of the match requires the teams to pre-program their robots to perform specific tasks. They have 30 seconds to knock down crates, move a bowling ball up a ramp and more. Teleoperation puts teammates at the controllers and they have two minutes to put racquet balls inside the crates, stack the crates and complete other tasks to add to their scores. The teams also work cooperatively with other teams during parts of the competition.

“Now they will be able to compete with not only the best teams in the country but in the world,” said Nova team mom Shobha Mallarapu.

The competitions has eveyone involved excited. Last week the two teams got together to show off their robots and have an impomptu, friendly robot battle. “It becomes a sport,” noted coach Tucker – a sport with math and science as a base.

If the teams are successful in St. Louis they will advance to international competitions held in countries like Canada, China, India, Mexico and the Netherlands.

Anyone who would like to help Team Nova and the Robo Chicken Gator Flys of Papayaland can e-mail or

Noel Stack

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