Stormgears 5422 is a First Robotics Team based in Middlesex County, MA. In their very first year they won the New England “Rookie All Star Award” which qualified them to compete in the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis. This year they won the “Engineering Inspiration Award” at their first regionals in Granite state. This qualifies them to move to the Regional Competition in Hartford, CT.
We had a chance to speak to the mentor of the team, Asmita Khanolkar. Asmita is a mentor for the Stormgears 5422 team. Her background is of manufacturing engineering and she works in the field of medical devices innovation. Her role involves scaling up manufacturing of new medical devices to market. Her son Alekh is a sophomore at Westford Academy and he is the mechanical lead.
Tell us about the team. How big is it and how has it progressed over the years.
The team members include 42 students from Westford Academy, Acton Boxborough High School, and Chelmsford High School. We have a very strong team technically. We are organized into three sub teams mechanical, electrical and software. The”FIRST” challenges are announced beginning of the year and we have 6 weeks to build the robot to compete in the competition. We build super fast robots that can do multiple things. Last year our robot picked and stacked bins for “Recycle Rush” Challenge and this year our robot can pick and shoot balls into 7 feet tall tower for the “Stronghold” Challenge.
What is the level of exposure that the team members get?
We have technical mentors from the industry who work side by side with the students in teaching them about robot building. We teach the students CAD, CAM, engineering principles, wiring, programming and sensor integration. The students get a real life industry experience. In addition to building robots the team does multiple outreach events. This year we did a total of 27 events. Some of them included WPI touch tomorrow, Discovery Museum and STEM fairs. The students engage in STEAM activities and help other kids learn about science and technology through fun games and activities.
What is your vision for this team and Robotics in general?
This year we launched “Global Outreach”. This is a unique endeavor of helping underprivileged kids. We launched this program in India. We (me and my son Alekh and daughter Serena) went to 4 schools in Pune, India and taught robotics NXT basics to underprivileged kids. These kids come from low income families and don’t have the amenities people take for granted here. We also mentored an FLL team of underprivileged kids and they won “the best project and core values” award in Pune competition. In addition to this, we contacted India STEM foundation and offered help in fund raising and mentoring. In the future we plan to sponsor FLL teams in India for underprivileged kids. We plan to start similar endeavors in Hong Kong and Philippines.
We plan to spread the engineering via our product suite of STEAM SPLASH and FLL IN A BOX. The kit comes with supplies for fun activities. The activities include building block sets , paper airplane kits, electronic snap circuits and spaghetti/marshmallow structures etc. We built 6 of these boxes and launched them in India. It was a huge success.
What makes you different from other teams?
Stormgears 5422 was awarded the engineering inspiration award at the Granite State district challenge in Windham, NH last weekend. The award was for our outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering through global outreach overseas, STEAMSPLASH and FLL in a BOX products and technical white paper on custom drive. These elements set us apart from the rest of the teams.